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Sena-NCP-Congress Will Form Government in Maharashtra

The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress will form a government in Maharashtra, which will complete a full term, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said on Friday, ruling out mid-term elections in the state that is under President's Rule after no party won a majority in polls last month. The three parties have agreed on a minimum agenda for getting together in a coalition government in Maharashtra, another senior leader said as the parties announced that they would meet with the Governor tomorrow in their first-ever joint outing.

"This government will be formed and it will complete five years. We all will ensure this government runs for five years," said Sharad Pawar, 79, a day after the three parties met to thrash out their basic differences and draft a common minimum programme.

The Congress, which took time to come around to supporting an ideologically contrasting party like the Shiv Sena, had insisted on a common agenda.

Deriding Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP for predicting that a Sena-NCP-Congress government would not last more than six months, Mr Pawar said: "I know Devendra ji for some years. But I did not know he is a student of astrology too."

The veteran also joked about another statement by Mr Fadnavis, who quit as chief minister last week: "I will come again."

Asked about the Shiv Sena's reported insistence on having the chief minister's post for the entire term, Mr Pawar said: "If anybody demands the chief minister's post we will think about it."

Sharad Pawar, a former Maharashra chief minister, is believed to have called for rotational chief ministership as a condition for partnering with the Shiv Sena.

Another NCP leader, Nawab Mallik, indicated that the Sena may get its wish. "On this issue the Sena separated from the BJP. Taking care of their prestige is our job. Chief Minister will be theirs," said the NCP leader.

"The draft common minimum programme has been sent to the leadership of each party for approval. Our focus will be on farmers' issues and unemployment... We are trying to make a government as soon as possible," he added.

Mr Malik refused to confirm reports that the Shiv Sena would have chief ministership for the entire five years and the NCP and Congress would share deputy chief ministership.

"Talks are still on," he said, adding, "There are no controversial issues in the draft."

The three parties will meet Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at 3 pm tomorrow on what they call "governance failure" in issues related to farmers and job losses. They have had discussions over the past three days - since President's Rule was imposed in Maharashtra on Tuesday -- on power sharing after the Sena ended its alliance with the BJP over its demand for rotational chief ministership.

Will they be able to form a government?

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