Maharashtra government formation | BJP never gave up, kept back channels open

A BJP supporter wears a cap with the name of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at a rally outside the party headquarters in Mumbai on November 23, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as Maharashtra Chief Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar as his deputy on Saturday morning was the result of continuous back-channel efforts by the BJP once it was clear that the Shiv Sena was determined to break the three-decade-long alliance.

Also read: Morning broke with a surprise for Sena MLAs penned up in hotel

Union Home Minister Amit Shah did not appreciate being called a liar by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. And while some noises were made about keeping the door open for the Sena to return, the alliance was very much off by then.

MLAs wooed

According to a senior BJP source in the know of things, Mr. Shah deputed the party’s Maharashtra election in-charge and general secretary, Bhupendra Yadav, to open channels with Mr. Ajit Pawar. Further, the party contacted at least 12 NCP MLAs with an RSS-BJP background who fought the election on NCP ticket after being denied the same by the BJP.

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The BJP leadership explained to them they were denied ticket because of the generous allocation of seats to the Sena, and their “claim” on these seats would be recognised in the next election.

“Ajit Pawar was persuaded that under a Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP alliance, he would have to contend with another Deputy Chief Minister, his uncle [NCP chief Sharad Pawar] holding all the cards, interference by Matoshree [Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s residence] and a giant coordination committee of all three parties,” a source said.

Asked if anything related to the Enforcement Directorate cases against Mr. Pawar was discussed, the source was not forthcoming.

Also read: Ajit Pawar’s move resembles uncle Sharad Pawar’s political coup 41 years ago

Things came to a head on Friday evening when it looked like the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine was coming around to some arrangement. Mr. Yadav was despatched to Mumbai, and Mr. Ajit Pawar, too, left the coordination meeting with the Congress held that evening.

With his phone switched off, he finalised the deal with the BJP around 11.45 p.m. He stayed put with Mr. Fadnavis till the swearing-in was done. Mr. Fadnavis, meanwhile, got in touch with Delhi to ask for an early swearing-in, and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari cancelled his visit to Delhi for a meeting of Governors with President Ram Nath Kovind. The order for the revocation of President’s Rule in the State came in at 5.47 a.m. but was announced only at 9 a.m. The swearing-in was held around 7.50 a.m.

While Mr. Sharad Pawar stated in his joint press conference with Mr. Thackeray later in the day that not many MLAs were with Mr. Ajit Pawar and that he would likely be sacked as NCP Legislature Party chief in the Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP appears confident about its numbers.

‘Mandate honoured’

At a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there was a moral and electoral case for the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra as it was the single largest party and its pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena had got a simple majority. “The strike rate of the BJP in winning seats under the seat-sharing agreement was 70%,” he said.

“It is being said that democracy is being murdered. When the Shiv Sena for its selfish ends broke a 30-year-old alliance and decided to go over to its rival, that is not a murder of democracy? Only when Devendra Fadnavis who wants to give a stable government with a comfortable majority of BJP and NCP MLAs, it is termed a murder of democracy,” he said.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:43:27 PM |

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