In dramatic twist to political events in Maharashtra, the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari as the next Chief Minister early on Saturday morning, along with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy.
Mr. Koshyari administered the oath of office to the two leaders at a closely guarded ceremony at the Raj Bhavan at 8.00 a.m., setting off political ripples across parties in the State.
Stung by the abrupt reversal in fortunes in less than 24 hours after party chief Uddhav Thackeray was declared the CM-designate of the Congress-NCP-Sena formation, the Sena approached the Supreme Court to quash the “arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions” of Mr. Koshyari in swearing in Mr. Fadnavis.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who has been spearheading efforts at forming a coalition government with the Congress and Sena, distanced himself from his nephew Ajit Pawar’s dramatic volte-face, saying the decision to support Mr. Fadnavis was a personal choice and not that of the party.
Later in the day, a meeting of 49 NCP MLAs removed Mr. Ajit Pawar as legislature party chief, saying his move was not in line with the party’s policies.
Speaking to reporters on the lawns of the Raj Bhavan after being sworn in, Mr. Fadnavis said, “The people of this State had given a clear mandate to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine but this mandate was rejected by our ally resulting in the imposition of President’s Rule in Maharashtra. A progressive State like ours did not deserve this situation and instead ended up staring at a khichdi government of Sena-NCP-Congress. I want to thank Ajit Pawar for taking the decision to join us in the effort to provide a stable government to Maharashtra.”
The Raj Bhavan ceremony was attended by select leaders of the BJP, families of Mr. Fadnavis and Mr. Pawar, along with as many as 15 MLAs of the NCP backing the latter.
The Chief Minister revealed without giving a timeline that the party had staked claim overnight to form a government, following which President’s Rule was lifted at 5.00 a.m. “After we made a claim, the honourable Governor made a request to the President to revoke President’s Rule, paving way for the oath ceremony,” Mr. Fadnavis said.
‘For the farmers’
“I have joined the government to provide a stable government in the State where lakhs of farmers are suffering from unseasonal rains,” Mr. Pawar said after taking oath as the Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) for a second time. He was earlier DCM in the Congress-NCP government between November 2010 and September 2012 but had to resign following allegations of corruption in irrigation projects. The scam, incidentally, was exposed by Mr. Fadnavis who was then the loudest Opposition voice against Mr. Pawar in the State Assembly.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, the BJP leadership assembled at the Chief Minister’s bungalow Varsha at 9.30 a.m. Senior BJP leaders claimed Mr. Pawar has — as head of the NCP’s legislative unit — assured support from all 54 party MLAs, giving the coalition a total strength of 170 members.
“We have a clear support from several NCP leaders and MLAs and our numbers are now over and beyond 170. Ajit Pawar is the leader of NCP’s legislative party; he came with his supporters and things would be clear soon,” said former Minister and BJP leader Girish Mahajan.
The BJP’s State president Chandrakant Patil blamed Sena for the mess.
“The BJP and Shiv Sena had a clear mandate this election but they decided to not respect it. The people of this State have watched what went on between the three parties (Congress/NCP and Sena) even as farmers were suffering. Under such circumstances, Mr. Fadnavis was compelled to take oath,” said Mr. Patil.
The BJP leadership trained its guns on Sena leader Sanjay Raut who had taken a belligerent stand against the former ally following Sena’s decision not to form a government with the partner.
“The BJP and our leaders blame Sanjay Raut for these developments in the state and we will not forget the language he has used against prime minister Narendra Modi. He is responsible for this mess between BJP and Shiv Sena,” Mr Patil said later.