Sena-NCP-Cong to declare pact today

Coalition set to stake claim by tomorrow

Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Mumbai, Nov 21

While the stalemate over government formation in Maharashtra is likely to end on Friday with the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena pact expected to be announced in Mumbai, sources say the coalition will stake claim by Saturday.

Senior Congress and NCP leaders met this evening to give final touches to the discussions and later said they would move to Mumbai on Friday and take the matter forward.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said a final decision on the alliance and its architecture would be announced on Friday.

The evening meeting of NCP and Congress came after a meeting of the Congress Working Committee was convened this morning.

Congress sources said the CWC meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi gave its nod to the conditional alliance with Sena once the modalities of the common minimum programme and power sharing were worked out and some key commitments on secularism taken in writing from Sena.

Chavan later said: "The Congress and NCP have completed the discussion on all issues pertaining to the alliance. There is complete unanimity on everything. We will move to Mumbai tomorrow and discuss the matter with our pre-poll allies after which the Congress and NCP will hold discussions with the Sena."

According to sources in the three parties, the coalition will stake claim to form the government by Saturday.

The coalition, likely to be called 'Maha Vikas Aghadi', will have smaller parties that had fought the last Assembly elections with the Congress and NCP. Sena leaders claim the coalition will have the support of more than 170 of the 288 MLAs in the Assembly with several Independents joining them.

Sources say either Uddhav Thackeray or a senior Sena leader will be the Chief Minister for a full five-year term, while the Congress and NCP will have a Deputy Chief Minister each. The Sena has agreed to drop its Hindutva agenda, according to sources. The Congress and NCP leaders have also got the Sena to agree that its mouthpiece 'Saamana' will not carry out attacks on the coalition government, according to senior leaders.

All three parties have agreed to share the portfolios in proportion to their representation in the Maharashtra legislature, according to sources here. All the heavy weights of the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress are expected to be included in the cabinet.

The Sena has called all its MLAs to Mumbai on Friday where a meeting by party chief has been convened. The MLAs have been asked to carry their PAN cards and Aadhaar cards in addition to changes of clothes for five days.

The legislators will be moved to a resort from where they will be paraded before Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari when the party stakes claim to form the government, according to sources here. The NCP and Congress, too, are keeping their flock together ahead of the parade at Raj Bhavan, according to sources. 

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