New Delhi: BJP appears to have decided to keep Shiv Sena in suspense while going ahead with government-formation with the unconditional backing of NCP as Devendra Fadnavis emerged the front-runner in Maharashtra and Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana for the post of chief minister.
Hectic consultations marked the day starting with discussions on Maharashtra between BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who hails from the state, on the strategy to be adopted in the wake of unsolicited support from rival NCP.
Shah drove down to Gadkari's residence and spent some 45 minutes there and the two worked out their further strategy on government-formation in Maharashtra where the party fell short of a majority.
Maharashtra, where the party has fallen short of majority by 22 seats in the 288-member Assembly, presented a strange problem for BJP which has to decide on whether to completely dump its 25-year-old saffron partner Shiv Sena and tacitly take NCP's support.
While BJP broke its alliance with Shiv Sena before the elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a blistering attack on NCP during the election campaign but spared Shiv Sena.
The ego clash that had sparked off the split in the saffron alliance in Maharashtra appears to be playing a role in the post-poll scenario too, say BJP sources.
The party is believed to be okay with NCP's support and will go ahead and stake claim to form the government after electing its leader of the BJP Legislature Party tomorrow.
There is a view in the party that it is not necessary for BJP to produce the majority before government formation.
Though there was speculation of a back-channel talk between the two sides, there was no confirmation if such an exercise was on. In the midst of all this, the name of BJP's Maharashtra chief Devendra Fadnavis emerged as the possible choice for the Chief Minister's post overcoming challenge from other veterans including Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde. Amit Shah's meeting with Gadkari raised speculation that the Union Minister was in the race but it appeared to be ruled out by party insiders.
The election of Legislature Party leaders in both the states could not take place today in view of the fact that Union Ministers Rajnath Singh (observer for Maharashtra) and M Venkaiah Naidu (for Haryana) were in the capital till late in the night for a cabinet meeting, followed by a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
In Haryana, BJP was faced with the issue of whether to have a Jat or a non-Jat as Chief Minister. The name of Khattar, who has the backing of RSS, was doing the rounds as the possible choice for the top post.
The fact that he is a Punjabi and a non-Jat adds strength to his claims in a state which has been dominated all along by Jat politics, partymen say.
The others in the race are state BJP chief Rambilas Sharma and Capt Abhimanyu besides some others.
The Haryana hopefuls were in the national capital today and met with top party leaders including Shah.
The party's newly-elected MLAs will meet in Chandigarh tomorrow at noon to elect their leader, who will be the Chief Minister.
"The BJP Legislative Party in Haryana will meet tomorrow at 12 noon at the UT State Guest House to elect its leader. BJP's former president Venkaiah Naidu will be the observer for the meeting," Jagdish Mukhi, BJP's incharge for Haryana, said.
He said it will be up to the new MLAs to elect their leader and the name of the party's chief ministerial candidate will be decided tomorrow who is likely to take oath before Diwali. "We are hopeful of having a chief minister in place ahead of Diwali," he said.
BJP won 47 seats in 90-member Haryana assembly while the party won 122 seats in Maharashtra in the 288-member state Assembly.