MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena says government formation with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress is on track, regardless of Sharad Pawar's cryptic, noncommittal statements.
"You don't worry about Pawar and our alliance. Very soon, by the first week of December, a Shiv Sena-led alliance government will be in power in Maharashtra. It will be a stable government," Sanjay Raut said on Tuesday.
Speculation that a Sena-NCP-Congress is not a done deal was fueled by Sharad Pawar's baffling response to reporters asking him about the Shiv Sena's claim about talks with the NCP - "Really?"
Mr Raut quipped, "It needs 100 births to understand what Sharad Pawar says."
But Sena functionaries conceded that the NCP chief is being pursued by the BJP, which is desperately trying to outwit the Shiv Sena in the race to power in Maharashtra. The job of President of India is on the table, said a Sena source. The NCP chief has, for now, ruled out any tie-up with the BJP.
The Sena claims that as far as the alliance with the Congress-NCP is concerned, when it comes to chief ministership, the party will only agree to an entire five-year term for itself.
The Shiv Sena broke up with the BJP, its partner of more than three decades, over its demand for rotational chief ministership and a better share of ministries. The BJP rejected the demand, insisting no such deal was ever discussed with the Sena.
Sena sources say the party is "happy to revive its alliance with the BJP" if the BJP reverts to the 50-50 chief ministership formula.
But sources say they are aware the BJP is chasing the NCP to stymie the Sena.
The formula offered by the BJP, say sources, includes a role in the government for the NCP and the President's post for Mr Pawar.
Yesterday, Mr Pawar responded to a question on BJP overtures with this disclaimer: "There is no question of supporting the BJP. We will have discussions with the Congress, our partner."
The other downer in a non-BJP alliance is the Congress, which is extremely wary of joining hands with the ideologically opposite Shiv Sena. The Congress, sources say, is worried about losing the Muslim vote in Kerala, especially Wayanad, the Muslim-dominated constituency of Rahul Gandhi.
On Monday, Mr Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi for nearly an hour but once again, the two parties said after the meeting that more discussions were needed.