Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari on Sunday evening sent a letter to the Shiv Sena to "indicate the willingness and ability" to form the government in the state.
The governor called the Sena, the second-largest party in the Assembly, after the BJP conveyed to him that it would not form the government as it did not have the numbers to reach the halfway mark of 145 in the state Assembly of 288 seats.
The BJP's decision was conveyed by caretaker chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who met the governor at Raj Bhawan.
Soon after, the governor reached out to Eknath Shinde, the leader of the Shiv Sena's MLAs.
Elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly were held on October 21, and the results were declared on October 24. However, the Sena, the BJP's pre-poll ally, has been playing hardball, refusing to support the BJP unless it gets the post of chief minister.
On Saturday, Raj Bhawan had asked Fadnavis to "express his willingness and ability" to form the government; the same letter was issued to Shinde on Sunday after Fadnavis expressed his unwillingness.
Earlier on Sunday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray reiterated that the CM would be from his party, even though he did not specify how that would happen. Thackeray was speaking to Sena MLAs in a hotel in Madh Island in Mumbai's Malad (West) suburb, where they have been kept by the party since Thursday.
"He said we have carried the palanquin for other people long enough. This time, he will ensure that a Shiv Sainik sits inside the palanquin," a Sena lawmaker, who was present at Thackeray's meeting, said.
Another MLA, who too was at the meeting, said: "Uddhav told legislators that we should see what is the BJP's move to decide the further course of action. While Uddhav didn't speak about forming the government with support of the NCP or the Congress, he did say that options were available."
Speaking after Fadnavis's meeting with the governor, Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who met Thackeray at the latter's residence Matoshree, said: "If Uddhav Thackeray has said there will be Shiv Sena chief minister in Maharashtra, there will be Sena CM in any case."
On Sunday, the BJP core committee held two meetings. The party took a unanimous decision to not buckle under the Sena's pressure and its demands for the CM's post. The party conveyed its decision to its national president and Union home minister Amit Shah, who was in touch through video-conferencing.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil, who addressed the media at Raj Bhawan, said: "The BJP has categorically conveyed to the governor that it will not form the government. The decision was taken following refusal of Shiv Sena to honour the pre-poll pact. It appears that the Shiv Sena is keen to form the government with the Congress and NCP. We wish them the best." The people's mandate, Patil said, was for the alliance of the BJP, Shiv Sena, RPI, Ryat Kranti, and Shiv Sangram. By not honouring the people's verdict, the Sena has insulted the mandate, he said.
A highly placed source in the BJP said: "We are very clear there will be no horse-trading. In the absence of support from the Sena, we did not want to stake claim."
The BJP believes that if three ideologically different parties come together, it will be at an advantage.