In what could be termed one of the biggest political surprises in the history of Maharashtra politics, the BJP on Thursday announced that it will support rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde as the new Chief Minister, who took oath in a simple ceremony in the Raj Bhavan on Thursday evening, officiated by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who all believed was set to become Chief Minister for the third time, joined him as Deputy Chief Minister.
The trust vote of the new government will be held on Saturday. The special session of the Assembly will be held on July 2 and 3. The Speaker will be elected on the first day of the session.
At a press conference prior to the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Fadnavis announced that the BJP would support Mr. Shinde as Chief Minister and claimed that he would not be the part of the Cabinet. Hours after his announcement, sensing discontent within the State unit of the party, BJP national president J.P. Nadda said the party had taken a decision to support Mr. Shinde, and Mr. Fadnavis too would join the government. Union Home Minister Amit Shah too tweeted saying that Mr. Fadnavis would join the government. Mr. Fadnavis replied to him saying he would follow the orders as an honest party worker. “I will obey the order of a party which gave me the top most post,” he tweeted.
Invokes Bal Thackeray
Initially, only two chairs were kept at the Darbar Hall where the swearing-in ceremony took place. Following tweets from the BJP’s central leadership, three chairs were placed. Mr. Shinde took the oath invoking Sena founder the late Bal Thackeray and his mentor the late Anand Dighe. This was followed by sloganeering from his supporters. Mr. Fadnavis too was greeted by loud sloganeering as he asked people to remain calm to continue with the oath taking. Following the ceremony, slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram, Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and praising King Shivaji were shouted by supporters of both the leaders.
Mr. Shinde, who revolted against former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on June 20, was joined by around 39 Sena MLAs and 11 independents. The rebel MLAs had demanded that Mr. Thackeray quit the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and snap ties with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to return to the path of Hindutva. Earlier in the day, Mr. Shinde returned to Mumbai from Goa where all rebel MLAs have been kept. He visited ‘Sagar’, the official residence of Mr. Fadnavis. Later, both, along with BJP leaders, visited the Governor to stake claim to form the government. Mr. Thackeray had resigned as the Chief Minister on Wednesday night.
“The MVA was formed disrespecting the popular mandate of 2019. We in the BJP have been saying that this government will fall and we also said that we will not impose elections on the people of the State. Therefore, when Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde decided to break away, we at the BJP extended support to him along with independent MLAs. BJP does not work for the CM’s post but for Hindutva and development. Therefore we have decided to support Eknath Shinde as the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra, “ said Mr. Fadnavis at the press conference earlier.
“I thank 50 MLAs for getting behind a small leader like me amidst all these big names. I will do what it takes for progress and development. In an era when even sarpanch’s post is not given to anyone, Fadnavis ji gave me the CM post. I thank, Modi ji, Shah ji and Fadnavis ji for the support,” said Mr. Shinde.
Mr. Fadnavis, who earlier stated that 16 independent MLAs were with the new government, said Cabinet expansion would take place in the coming days. “Today, only Eknath ji will be sworn in. We will discuss on Cabinet in the coming days. I will not be in the Cabinet but will work from outside the government,“ he said.
The new Chief Minister said that apart from 39 Sena MLAs, he has a total of 50 MLAs with him. “Our 50 and the BJP ‘s 120 will make it the strongest ever government which will walk on the path of Balasaheb’s Hindutva and will have the vision of development of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,“ he said. Earlier, Mr. Fadnavis said Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, despite repeated requests by his MLAs, had refused to quit the alliance of the Congress and the NCP.