Balasaheb Thorat on Friday ruled out joining hands with the Shiv Sena to keep the BJP out of power in the State and said that his party's mandate was to play the role of responsible opposition. Congress didn't have a "strategy or proposal" to prop up a Shiv Sena-led government, Thorat said, adding that 10 Independents were in touch with him and they wanted to be part of the Opposition and not back the BJP-Sena.
The Congress won 44 seats in the polls for the 288- member Assembly, results of which were announced on Thursday. As it became clear that the BJP would not be able to form the government on its own, some Congress leaders including former chief minister Ashok Chavan had said the Congress should explore "all options" to keep the BJP out of power.
"The question of us offering support to the Sena doesn't arise. If the Sena approaches us, we will seek advice from our central leadership and its decision will be final," Thorat said at a press conference. When asked what the Congress' stand would be in case the Sena came up with such a proposal, he said the Uddhav Thackeray-led party would have to "come out of the BJP's influence". About the support of independent MLAs to the Congress and if this would lead the Congress to claim the post of Leader of Opposition, Thorat said going by precedents, the numbers garnered this way are not considered while deciding which party gets the LoP post.
The NCP, which fought the October 21 polls in alliance with the Congress, has won 54 seats. Thorat said that the Congress would rebuild itself in the next five years, with a strategy to strengthen itself in "har gaon, har mohalla" (every village, every locality), with focus on urban areas. "We expected more (seats) and had worked hard towards it. However, the mandate is welcome. It is for us to be a responsible and strong opposition party," he said.
He went on to add that the mandate was against the ruling BJP-Sena as well as the vote percentage against them was higher, though it did not reflect in numbers. Thorat lashed out at a section of electronic media which he claimed ran a campaign against Congress leaders such as Ashok Chavan, Amit Deshmukh, and he himself, repeatedly declaring that they would lose the polls.
"We won our seats with margins of 50,000 to one lakh. Still, these channels claimed we were set to lose, causing us and our party workers a lot of pain for two days," he said, adding that legal action was being considered against such channels. Thorat said that ally NCP did well in western Maharashtra which gave a boost to the Sharad Pawar-led's party's tally. On the new equation between the BJP and Sena in the second term of their alliance government and the possibility of a renewed power struggle between the saffron allies, Thorat said, "Everybody knows how the BJP treated the Sena. It is for the Sena to decide what to do."