Shinde-Fadnavis form next Maha govt after MVA alliance collapses

Eknath Shinde, new Maharashtra CM
Eknath Shinde, new Maharashtra CM

Mumbai: Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde took oath as the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra in wake of the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Thursday.

BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis is the new Deputy Chief Minister.

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath of office to them at Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai shortly after 7.30 pm.

"Development of the state is my priority. I will take all sections of society along with me," Shinde told after the ceremony.

Shinde and Fadnavis have the support of 170 MLAs, way above the 145 majority mark in the 288-member House that is necessary to form a government in the state.

It was ten days ago that the rebel Shiv Sena leader raised a banner of revolt along with 50 MLAs against former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alleging that the latter's ways were in conflict with the aspirations that Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had for the party.

Knowing quite well that he no longer had the numbers, Shiv Sena chieftain Uddhav Thackeray had announced on Wednesday his decision to step down from the chief minister post, but not before calling a final cabinet meeting at twilight to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, a dream of his late father.

Since then, it was considered a foregone conclusion that Fadnavis will become the CM for the third time, in alliance with the Shinde-led Sena rebels.

However, the BJP chieftain made clear that he will not be part of the Eknath Shinde-led ministry. "I will support it from outside," Fadnavis said.

But moments before the oath-taking ceremony, BJP President JP Nadda said that Fadnavis will indeed be part of the new Maharashtra government.

BJP strongman Amit Shah had also said that Fadnavis will join the Shinde-led government.

"Fadnavis could have become CM going by the numbers but he showed a big heart and I thank him," Shinde said.

"The new government in Maharashtra will get the backing of PM Modi, Amit Shah and J P Nadda," he added.

Shinde also reiterated that though he and several MLAs broke away from the MVA alliance led by Uddhav Thackeray, they are indeed Shiv Sainiks and will remain in Shiv Sena.

With this, BJP has quelled the obvious labelling that it has once again used money and muscle to wrest power had Fadnavis become the chief minister once again. Instead, the saffron clan has, for once, emerged as the benevolent facilitator, one that helped restore Shiv Sena to its true identity.

"This was not a battle for power but for principles and Hindutva ideology," Fadnavis said.

There was unrest in the Shiv Sena ranks as an alliance with Congress and NCP was an insult to the mandate of the 2019 Assembly polls when Sena and BJP had fought the polls together, he added.

"Uddhav Thackeray aligned with parties (Congress and NCP) whom (Sena founder) Bal Thackeray opposed all his life." It was this rift that eventually saw the MVA alliance collapsing, Fadnavis claimed.

Shinde said he took the decision to rebel against the MVA government (with the support of 50 MLAs) for the development of the state. "There were limitations to the functioning of the MVA. There was no personal interest involved," he clarified.

The cabinet expansion will take place later. It is understood that Sena (rebels) as well as BJP MLAs and some independents will be sworn in as ministers during the expansion.

In wake of all these developments, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said the rebels have chosen their way and there would be no hindrance from his party in the path of the dissidents to associate with the BJP.

The Rajya Sabha MP said the Sena, which led the MVA government, will play the role of constructive opposition to the new government.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress leaders met Sena president Thackeray at his residence on Thursday.

It was a courtesy call as they had worked with Thackeray as part of the MVA coalition government for the last two-and-half years, said Congress leader Nitin Raut.

As to whether the MVA, an alliance of Sena, Congress and NCP, would continue, he said the issue was yet to be discussed.

However, State Congress president Nana Patole said the party would contest the coming local body polls on its own, while the decision as to whether to continue the alliance for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls would be taken by the party leadership.

PM Modi congratulates Shinde, Fadnavis

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday congratulated Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis on taking as Maharashtra chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively and expressed confidence that they will take the state to greater heights.

In tweets soon after they were sworn in, Modi said, "I would like to congratulate Shri Eknath Shinde on taking oath as Maharashtra CM. A grassroots level leader, he brings with him rich political, legislative and administrative experience. I am confident that he will work towards taking Maharashtra to greater heights."

He added, "Congratulations to Devendra Fadnavis on taking oath as Maharashtra Deputy CM. He is an inspiration for every BJP Karyakarta. His experience and expertise will be an asset for the Government. I am certain he will further strengthen Maharashtra's growth trajectory."

(With inputs from PTI)

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