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Maharashtra BJP MLAs to elect Legislative Party leader today

NEW DELHI: Newly-elected BJP MLAs of Maharashtra will meet in Mumbai on Tuesday to choose their Legislature Party leader, moving ahead with the process of forming government even as the prospect of a tie-up with estranged ally Shiv Sena remained a matter of speculation.

The 122 party MLAs will meet at 4 PM, party sources said here Monday. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and senior party leader JP Nadda, who have been nominated as central observers, will oversee the election process, the sources said.

The election of the Legislature Party leader will mark a step towards formation of the government in the state where BJP fell short of majority by 23 seats in the 288-member Assembly. Back channel talks are said to be underway between BJP and Sena on a possible tie-up for government-formation.

However, BJP sources were tight-lipped about the likelihood of an alliance with the estranged partner, saying nothing concrete has emerged yet. Asked if central observers plan to meet Sena leaders, a senior party leader said there is ‘nothing like this as of now’.

The MLAs will choose their leader irrespective of the outcome of talks with Sena, an indication that BJP was not averse to forming a minority government, the leader said. Sena has of late softened its stand against BJP with an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna today saying that the party was ready to back any BJP CM.

BJP leaders have described Sena as their "natural" partner pointing out its member Ananth Geete remains a member of Union Cabinet.

State party president Devendra Fadnavis is said to be frontrunner for the post of the Chief Minister but some other names, including those of Union minister Nitin Gadkari, have been doing the rounds.