The first-ever Shiv Sena- NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra appears to be taking shape with Sharad Pawar on Friday expressing confidence that the government of the three parties will last a full term.
The NCP also said that the Sena, which fell out with the BJP over chief minister's post, will lead the alliance.
A delegation of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena is set to meet Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Saturday, but the three parties maintained that it was for seeking immediate aid for rain-affected farmers, and was not about government formation.
The three-party coalition, a new experiment in Maharashtra involving outfits with diverse ideologies, will be led by the Sena, leaders in the Uddhav Thackeray-party and the NCP said, marking a progress in power-sharing negotiations.
They have already prepared a draft common minimum programme (CMP).
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government will be formed, and it will complete five-year term as he ruled out the possibility of mid-term polls in the state which is currently under President's rule.
"There is no possibility of mid-term polls. This government will be formed and it will complete five years. We all will ensure this government runs for five years," the NCP chief said in Nagpur.
In Mumbai, NCP's chief spokesman Nawab Malik said the chief minister's post will go to the Shiv Sena.
"The chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena. It walked away from the 'Mahayuti' (the Sena-BJP alliance) on the issue of chief minister's post. It is our responsibility to respect its sentiment," Malik said.
At a meeting in Mumbai on Thursday, leaders of the Congress, NCP and Sena prepared the draft CMP, which will be forwarded for approval to top leaders of the three parties.
The BJP, meanwhile, claimed that it would form the government, without disclosing how it would cobble up majority figure of 145 in the 288-member house.
Addressing a press conference, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, "BJP is the single largest party, and with the support of Independents our tally reaches 119. With this tally, BJP will form the government."
Sena leader Sanjay Raut said Maharashtra's next government will be led by his party.
The Rajya Sabha MP was responding to questions on whether his party will share the chief minister's post with the NCP and Congress.
"Whether it is a single party government or an alliance, an agenda for governance is necessary. There are infrastructure projects to be taken forward, (and issues related to) drought,unseasonal rains (are to be tackled).
"Those coming with us are experienced administrators.
We will benefit from their experience," he said.
About the apparent contradiction in forming alliance with the Congress, Sena' s political rival till recently, Raut said leaders of the country's oldest party had contributed to the freedom struggle as well as the state's development.
Asked if the Sena will give up its demand for the Bharat Ratna for Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar and accept quota for Muslims, Raut evaded a direct reply and said, "We know the source of such speculation."
"Vajpayee (BJP stalwart and ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee) headed an alliance of parties who came together on a common minimum programme. In Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar had led a Progressive Democratic Front government (1978-80) of which the Jan Sangh, BJP's earlier avatar, was a part," Raut said.
The draft CMP focuses on farmers and measures to tackle unemployment, a senior Congress leader said in Mumbai.
"Inclusive development and justice to all sections of society are the criteria on which we will work if the CMP is approved by the leadership of all three parties," he told PTI, requesting anonymity.
Pawar is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi on November 17 in New Delhi where a final decision on government formation is likely to be taken.
The Sena reached out to the Congress-NCP combine for government formation after its demand for sharing the chief minister's post and equal distribution of portfolios was rejected by the BJP, its pre-poll ally.
The BJP and the Sena, which fought the October 21 polls in alliance, secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats, respectively, in the 288-member assembly.
The Congress and the NCP, pre-poll allies, won 44 and 54 seats, respectively.