On the eve of NCP President Sharad Pawar's meting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi amid an impasse over government formation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena appears to have contacted the Sharad Pawar-led party on Sunday.
The speculation that the Shiv Sena was exploring alternative choice other than the ally BJP got strengthened on Sunday when senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar showed reporters a phone message from Sena MP Sanjay Raut, which just contained a formal introduction and greetings from the latter.
The Sena and the BJP are locked in a disagreement over the CM post, which has delayed government formation, prompting speculation that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party may ally with the NCP and the Congress to form a government.
The message from Sanjay Raut read "Namaskar mi Sanjay Raut. Jai Maharashtra".
Talking about the message, former deputy chief minister Pawar said, "This means I should call him. I will call and check."
Remarkably, amidst the power tussle between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the NCP has been maintaining that it would sit in the Opposition.
While Sanjay Raut, earlier in the day, guaranteed the Sena would soon have its chief minister with the support of '170 MLAs', Pawar said he was "unaware" how the Sena leader had arrived at this number.
"The Congress-NCP and different allies have a strength of 110 seats (which includes Congress' 44 and NCP's 54). And we have a mandate to be in the opposition," Pawar said.
He also scoffed at speculation that NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was in the race for the Maharashtra CM post.
The Baramati MLA was addressing to NCP candidates who lost the 21 October Assembly polls, giving them the example of former Congress CM late Vilasrao Deshmukh who proceeded to occupy the state's top post after a shock defeat from stronghold Latur in 1995.
Earlier, Sanjay Raut had said Sharad Pawar was a probable prime ministerial candidate and his stature was too big for the post of state CM.
The formal talks over formation of government are yet to take off between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, which together won 161 of the total 288 seats.
The midway mark is 145.
The bone of dispute is the Shiv Sena's request for the post of the chief minister on a rotational basis and implementation of a "50:50 power sharing" formula, which entails equal allocation of ministerial portfolios.