Fuelling fresh speculation in political circles, union Minister for Shipping and Transport Nitin Gadkari called on Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday.
Late Friday night, the Bharatiya Janata Party state president and prime contender for the post of the next Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had met Bhagwat.
Sources in the BJP claimed ignorance of what transpired in both the meetings, coming as did barely hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mumbai later in the day, but quipped that they may have gone to "wish Happy Diwali".
Unofficial reports emanating from RSS headquarters indicated discussions took place between the RSS chief and Fadnavis and Gadkari on the issue of the new government formation, the composition of the new ministry and related aspects.
Incidentally, Gadkari has categorically said on several occasions he is not interested in taking up the responsibility of the Maharashtra CM.
In a related development, a large number of BJP activists in Jalgaon raised slogans in support of former Leader of Opposition and senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse saying that since northern Maharashtra region has never given a chief minister, he should be considered.
Former state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar reiterated his demand that a senior and experienced person like Gadkari should be made the state CM.
Speaking to a private TV channel in Chandrapur, Mungantiwar claimed that "even Fadnavis is in favour" of Gadkari as the next CM, though the state party leaders have not reacted to his statement.
With the Shiv Sena appearing keen to join a BJP-led coalition in the state, competition among various contenders within the BJP for the coveted post has intensified after a lull during Diwali.
The BJP and the Sena are likely to initiate formal negotiations on the intricacies of forming the new government next week onwards and a decision is likely to be taken before the month-end.
In the recent 13th assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 122 seats, plus one to an ally.
The Nationalist Congress Party has offered "unconditional external support" to the BJP which the latter (BJP) has cold-shouldered even as the Sena veered around to the possibility of extending support.
(With inputs from IANS)