Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi today to discuss farmers' crisis in Maharashtra amid intense political activity to form a government after no party won a majority in last month's election.
The two leaders will meet in parliament in the afternoon.
The meeting is significant at a time Sharad Pawar's NCP is much sought after for an alliance that can take power in Maharashtra.
The NCP and Congress will meet in the evening to discuss how to partner with the Shiv Sena, a long-term BJP ally that recently ended its alliance with the ruling party over a power tussle.
The Shiv Sena wanted a guarantee of 50:50 power sharing, including rotational chief ministership, but the BJP rejected it.
The Sena is hoping to form government with support from rivals NCP and Congress, but it has been forced to wait as the two opposition parties weigh their options.
Against the backdrop of these talks, PM Modi's praise for the NCP during a debate on Monday to mark the 250th session of the Rajya Sabha was viewed with interest.
"Today, I want to appreciate two parties, NCP and BJD (Biju Janata Dal of Naveen Patnaik). These parties have wonderfully adhered to parliamentary norms. They have never gone into the well of the house (to protest). Yet, they have made their points very effectively. Every political party, including my party, should learn from them," the Prime Minister said, criticizing the practice of MPs rushing to the centre of the house to protest.
There has been talk about the BJP – which emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member assembly – pursuing Mr Pawar, whose party is only two seats behind the Shiv Sena (56) and can help the ruling party cross the majority-mark of 145.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who has been in touch with Mr Pawar, said it was he who had requested the veteran leader to "brief the PM about the farmer crisis" as he is one of the tallest leaders of the state.
"If Uddhav Thackeray comes to Delhi and all of us meet PM Modi, then what khichdi will you cook (what will you speculate)? Many MPs will meet the PM to speak about Maharashtra," Mr Raut said.
Shiv Sena sources says government formation with the NCP and Congress is on track. Mr Raut had said yesterday that "by early-December", a Shiv Sena-led alliance government will be in power in Maharashtra.
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?"
With the NCP and Congress stalling a decision, 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.
Mr Pawar has, for now, ruled out any understanding with the BJP. "There is no question of supporting the BJP. We will have discussions with the Congress, our partner," he said on Monday, after meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
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