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Will call back, Ajit Pawar tells Sanjay Raut after receiving text from him

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Mumbai, Nov 04: On the eve of NCP president Sharad Pawar's meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi amid an impasse over government formation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena seems to have reached out to the Sharad Pawar-led party.

The speculation the Sena was exploring alternative options 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 of and greetings from the latter.

File photo of Ajit Pawar

The Sena and the BJP are locked in a dispute over the chief minister's 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.

Alternate govt in Maharashtra? Sharad Pawar to discuss political impasse with Sonia Gandhi

The message from Raut read "Namaskar mi Sanjay Raut.

Jai Maharashtra".

Speaking on the message, former deputy chief minister Pawar said, "This means I should call him. I will call and check."

Notably, amidst the power tussle between the Sena and the BJP, the NCP has been maintaining that it would sit in the Opposition.

While Raut, earlier in the day, claimed 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 other allies have a strength of 110 seats (which includes Congress' 44 and NCP's 54). And we have the mandate to be in the opposition," Pawar said.

He also scoffed at speculation that NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was in the race for the post of Maharashtra CM.

The Baramati MLA was speaking to NCP candidates who lost the October 21 Assembly polls, giving them the example of former Congress CM late Vilasrao Deshmukh who went on to occupy the state's top post after a shock defeat from stronghold Latur in 1995.

Earlier, Raut had said Sharad Pawar was a probable prime ministerial candidate and his stature was too big for the post of state CM.

Maharashtra Assembly term ends on Nov 9: Fadnavis to stake claim by Wednesday

The formal talks over the formation of government are yet to take off between the BJP and the Sena which together won 161 of the total 288 seats.

The halfway mark is 145.

The bone of contention is Sena's insistence 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.

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