Hours after Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asked the Shiv Sena to "indicate the willingness and ability" of the party to stake claim, leaders of the party Milind Narvekar and Anil Desai were seen visiting Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at Matoshree. Both the party leaders were clicked leaving from Thackeray's residence in the wee hours of Monday. The development has mounted suspense over the government formation in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena, the second-largest party in the 288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP (105), has time till 7:30 pm on November 11, to stake the claim.
While the Sena has been making efforts to reach out to the NCP and the Congress, the Sharad Pawar-led party said the Sena will have to walk out of the NDA first.
Congress sources said the party legislators from Maharashtra were meeting in Jaipur with senior leaders to discuss the possibility of supporting a Sena-led government.
The MLAs will return to Mumbai from Jaipur Monday afternoon after which the party may announce its stand on the political impasse, a close aide of a senior Congress leader said.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra BJP core committee headed by caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also meet in Mumbai on Monday.
Maharashtra government formation: Top developments
Governor Koshyari has asked Sena legislative party leader Eknath Shinde to "indicate willingness and ability" of the party to form government, a Raj Bhavan statement said.
After the governor's communication, Sena MLAs, staying at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, went into a huddle. They later moved to Matoshree, the Bandra residence of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray, for another meeting.
The fast-paced developments seem to have increased the bargaining power of opposition Congress and NCP, as the Sena, which has 56 MLAs, is far away from the halfway mark of 145.
A day after the governor asked the BJP to indicate its willingness and ability to form government, Fadnavis informed him about the party's inability to do so due to lack of enough numbers.
The role of the Congress (44 MLAS) and the NCP (54 MLAs) is crucial now.
If the Sena decides to form a government with the support of Opposition parties, the collective strength of all the three parties will go up to 154 in the House, just above the halfway mark.
While the Congress refused to open its cards, the NCP made it clear that the Sena would have to break away from the NDA before the Sharad Pawar-led party can think of lending support to the Uddhav Thackeray's party.
However, Sena leader Sanjay Raut appeared unfazed and said his party would install its chief minister at any cost.
Sharing of power, especially the post of the CM on a rotational basis, was the bone of contention between the Sena and the BJP for the last 16 days, which resulted into a deadlock.
Fadnavis had rejected Thackeray's claims that BJP chief Amit Shah had agreed to his demand for a rotational chief ministership ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
Announcing the party's decision to not form government on Sunday evening, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil accused the Thackeray-led party of "disrespecting" the popular mandate secured by the NDA in recent assembly polls.
The governor had on Saturday invited the BJP to form government by virtue of it being the single largest party.
Sanjay Raut likely to meet Congress leaders in Delhi today
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut is likely to meet top Congress leaders on Monday to seek support for his party-led government in the state. However, it was not clear if he will meet the party's interim President Sonia Gandhi as yet. Top Congress sources say that Raut has not sought any meeting with her, but she can meet the Sena leader.
The Congress has officially said that they are watching the development closely but did not divulge their plan. It has been also maintained that any talks will only be initiated if the Sena leaves the NDA officially.
A party meet at Jaipur, where the Congress has brought up its MLAs from the state, fearing poaching attempts, have empowered Gandhi to take a decision on the issue.
A majority of the MLAs are keen to support any non-BJP formation.