Sena, BJP, to elect their leaders Monday


Mumbai: Rattled by the third consecutive defeat at the polls in Maharashtra, the newly-elected legislators of the opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine will hold separate meetings here Monday to elect their party leaders in the assembly.

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Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe told IANS that the meeting would be held at noon in Shiv Sena Bhavan.

This time, all is not hunky dory between the alliance partners, with both staking claim to the coveted cabinet-rank post of leader of opposition.

“This time we have got more seats, so we feel that the post of opposition leader should come to the BJP,” state BJP party general secretary Vinod Tawde said Friday.

Echoing this, state BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said: “If it is a matter of numbers, then we have more, 46, compared to Sena’s 44. The party which has the maximum number of seats in the opposition benches ideally and logically has a claim over the post (of leader of opposition).”

Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP and spokesman Sanjay Raut said: “I feel that since the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Parishad (legislative council – the upper house) is from the BJP, we should naturally get the post of leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha (legislative assembly – the lower house).”

Gorhe said the issue would be discussed between the top leaders of both parties.

She said BJP leaders, including Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari, have already held talks with Sena leaders after the election results.

In the 288-member House, the Congress secured 81 seats, its partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got 63, the BJP 46 and the Shiv Sena was relegated to the fourth position with 44 seats.

Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is the fifth largest party with 13 members in the new assembly, with other smaller parties and independents comprising the remaining 41 members.

Besides being shunted to the fourth position in the state for the first time in over two decades, the Sena is also facing the embarrassment of the defeat of its senior leader Ramdas Kadam, who was leader of opposition for the past five years.

The Sena is hoping for the support of four candidates of the Peasants & Workers Party (PWP), who won with its support, and a former Sena activist Vivek Pandit, who won as an Independent from Vasai in Thane district.

Meanwhile, the Congress legislators had a brief meeting here Saturday afternoon with three central party observers – Digvijay Singh, A.K. Antony and K. Rehman – and passed a resolution authorizing party president Sonia Gandhi to decide on the new chief minister.

Its ally, the NCP will also hold a meeting Monday to decide who will be the new deputy chief minister – a post held by it in the two previous Democratic Front governments.