Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde will be the next Maharashtra Chief Minister and Devendra Fadnavis his deputy, the BJP announced on Thursday, capping the coup that unseated Uddhav Thackeray a day ago with back-to-back curveballs.
“I will be out of government but will ensure smooth functioning of the government which is coming as an alternative after Uddhav Thackeray resigned,” Fadnavis said.
However, barely three hours later, BJP chief JP Nadda said, “He must be Deputy Chief Minister… I will personally request him.” Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that Fadnavis had graciously accepted the request.
Eknath Shinde thanked PM Modi, Fadnavis and other BJP leaders. “It’s their magnanimity. They had a bigger mandate, yet they made me the Chief Minister. Who does that?” he said.
As Shinde was anointed the next Maharashtra Chief Minister, other Shiv Sena rebels, sequestered at a resort in Goa, erupted in celebration.
The MLAs were seen dancing in what appeared to be a banquet hall, watching the news briefing on a giant screen.
Some even climbed onto tables.
Fadnavis’s announcement defied expectations that he would return as Chief Minister with the support of the Shinde faction.
Shinde alone will take oath of office at 7:30 pm, and cabinet expansion will take place later, Fadnavis said at a press conference at Raj Bhavan premises after meeting Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari along with Shinde.
“I will not betray the faith Fadnavis has placed in me,” Mr Shinde told the media.
The BJP will extend support to Shinde’s group, said Fadnavis, a former Chief Minister and currently leader of opposition in the Assembly. BJP is the single largest party in the legislature.
The Sena rebels as well as BJP MLAs and some independents will be sworn in as ministers during the expansion, he added.
This was not a battle for power but for principles and Hindutva ideology, he said, adding that the BJP was against imposing elections on the state at this juncture.
There was unrest in the Shiv Sena ranks as alliance with Congress and NCP was insult of the mandate of the 2019 Assembly polls when Sena and BJP had fought the polls together, he said.
“Uddhav Thackeray aligned with parties (Congress and NCP) whom (Sena founder) Bal Thackeray opposed all his life,” Fadnavis claimed.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance was “corrupt” and two ministers of that government are in jail for corruption and money laundering charges, the BJP leader said.
Shiv Sena MLAs were facing problems in their constituencies as the MVA allies were hurting their prospects, Fadnavis said.
Congress and NCP leaders in the constituencies of Shiv Sena leaders were being given government funds, he claimed.
Speaking later, Eknath Shinde, MLA from Kopri-Panchpakhadi in Thane city, said he took the decision (to rebel against the MVA government) with support of 50 MLAs for the development of the state and “there was no personal interest involved.” “There were limitations to the functioning of the MVA,” he said.
Uddhav Thackeray quit as Maharashtra Chief Minister yesterday, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that he must prove his majority.
he Shiv Sena chief was left with only 13 MLAs after the revolt that played out in three BJP-ruled states. Eknath Shinde and a group of rebels first moved to Gujarat’s Surat in luxury buses. They were flown to Assam’s Guwahati in chartered flights. They landed in Goa last evening to prepare for a possible test of strength.
Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson for the Sena rebels, stressed that it was ideology, and not greed for better posts, that drove them to switch sides and go with the BJP.
He asserted that the rebel faction is the Shiv Sena now, since Uddhav Thackeray is in a minority in the party. “It’s not a question of who is the real Shiv Sena. We have the legal majority and thus ours is the legislature party,” he said.