Fadnavis sworn in as CM, Ajit as his Dy; Sena, Cong, NCP hit out at Guv for ‘undermining’ Constitution; Cong vows to fight BJP legally
In an overnight coup carried out by it amid efforts by the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to form a Government in Maharashtra, the BJP on Saturday stunned its political rivals by installing its Government in the State under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis with the support of a breakaway faction of the NCP led by Ajit Pawar.
The nation woke up to a most unexpected political development that rattled the three parties which were to meet around noon to formalise the power-sharing pact among them, as Fadnavis was sworn in as the Chief Minister, while Ajit Pawar of the NCP took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister at a brief and sparsely attended ceremony at Raj Bhavan here.
Hitting out at the BJP for carrying out “fargical” (fake) strike in Maharashtra, a shocked Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said: “Whatever has happened is shameful. They (the BJP) are exhibiting new Hindutva, but this is not Hindutva. As if the misuse of EVMs is not enough, the BJP has started playing games at night. Whatever we do, we do in the broad daylight. We have witnessed similar things in Haryana and Bihar. Is this way to respect the people’s mandate? In the land of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the BJP has carried out fargical strike. We will not tolerate anyone stabbing us in the back”.
The swearing-in of Fadnavis and Ajit took place little over two hours after President’s Rule, which was imposed in Maharashtra on November 12, was revoked by Ram Nath Kovind at 5.47 am.
During the night-long drama that preceded the swearing-in ceremony, Fadnavis had earlier struck deal with Ajit shortly before the midnight, spoke to the BJP leadership, staked claim with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari after midnight and the Governor in turn sent a report to the Centre, seeking revocation of President’s Rule.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the first to congratulate Fadnavis and Ajit on their being sworn in as the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively, tweeted: “Congratulations to @Dev_FadnavisJi and @AjitPawarSpeaksJi on taking oath as the CM and Deputy CM of Maharashtra respectively. I am confident they will work diligently for the bright future of Maharashtra.
Talking to the ANI — the only news agency that covered the events at Raj Bhavan — after the swearing-in ceremony, Fadnavis thanked Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah and party’s working president JP Nadda for giving an opportunity once again to serve as the Chief Minister.
“The people of Maharashtra had given a clear mandate. But, our ally Shiv Sena rejected the mandate and instead it attempted to form an alliance with other parties. As a result, President’s Rule was imposed. Having realised that we can ill-afford to have President’s Rule, we decided to form a stable Government in place of khichdi Government of three parties. I would like to express my gratitude to Ajit Pawarji for deciding to join the BJP in forming a stable Government. With him, we staked claim to form a Government,” Fadnavis said.
“Based on our request, the Governor requested the President to revoke the President’s Rule. After the revocation of the President’s rule, we were invited for the swearing-in ceremony. I am confident that we will provide a stable Government to the State,” the Chief Minister said.
As the news of Fadnavis and Ajit taking oath as the Chief Minister and his Deputy respectively spread in the metropolis, there was palpable silence among the leaders of the NCP, Sena and Congress for quite some time. It was more than ninety minutes after the swearing-in ceremony, a shocked NCP president Sharad Pawar put out a tweet, distancing himself from his nephew and former Chief Minister Ajit’s act. “Ajit Pawar’s decision to support the BJP to form the Maharashtra Government is his personal decision and not that of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). We place on record that we do not support or endorse this decision of his,” Sr Pawar wrote.
Some clarity on the sudden turn of political events emerged during the next two hours which saw one of the two NCP MLAs, including Dr Rajendra Shingane, who had been “taken” to the Raj Bhavan for the swearing-in ceremony, come and meet Sr Pawar in the latter’s “Silver Oak” residence and brief him about the developments. Apart from taking stock of the situation with his senior party colleagues, Sr Pawar spoke to a shocked Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at least twice and also confabulated with the senior Congress leaders.
Later, addressing a joint news conference with Uddhav at the YB Chavan centre, Sr Pawar said: “Through a party colleague, I came to know about the sudden activity at Raj Bhavan at around 6.45 am. Later on I learnt that Fadnavis had taken over as the Chief Minister and Ajit Pawar as the Deputy Chief Minister”.
Dubbing his nephew’s decision to support the BJP-led Government as “anti-party activity”, Sr Pawar indicated that the NCP would replace Ajit as the NCP Legislature Party with another person and also initiate disciplinary action against the latter. “From what I have learnt 10 to 11 NCP MLAs were present with Ajit at the swearing-in ceremony. Of them, three MLAs have come back to us from Raj Bhavan,” the NCP president said.
Of the three MLAs who spoke at the news conference, one MLA from Buldhana district in Vidarbha region Dr Rajendra Shingane said: “Ajit Pawar called me around midnight last night. He said he had something important to discuss and asked me to come to his bungalow at 7 am today. Since he is our legislature party leader, I obliged him and went to Ajit’s bungalow at 7 am. Some 8 to 10 NCP MLAs were there at Ajit Pawar’s bungalow. We were told that we are being taken to some other place for the discussion. But, we were taken to Raj Bhavan, where I came to know only later that we had been taken for the swearing-in ceremony. I left the place immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, went and met Sharad Pawarji and briefed him on what transpired at Raj Bhavan”.
In a significant statement, Pawar said: “Our party had obtained signatures of MLAs for a letter of support to the Shiv Sena-led Government in the State. I have a reason to believe that Ajit Pawar has submitted one such list of signatures of MLAs to the Governor as a letter of support to the Governor. Through this list, Ajit Pawar might have misled the Governor that he enjoyed the support of 54 MLAs which is not a fact,” he said.
Sr Pawar said that Fadnavis had been given time till November 30 to prove the majority of his Government on the floor of the Assembly. “I am confident that Fadnavis will not be able to prove his majority on the floor of the House. We – Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP – are together and will remain so. Once the BJP-led Government fails to prove its majority on the floor of the House, we will make all our efforts to form a Government in the State. Come what may, we will remain together and face whatever challenge that we will face”.
Significantly enough, at least half dozen NCP MLAs who had gone with Ajit Pawar returned to the NCP camp later in the evening. Prominent among MLAs who returned was senior NCP leader and former leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde, who incidentally is the estranged nephew of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde.
At the NCP’s Legislature Party meeting held in the evening, State NCP president Jayant Patil was elected as the party’s new Legislature party leader in place of Ajit Pawar. There were conflicting versions as to the number of MLAs present at the NCP Legislature Party meeting. While the NCP claimed that 50 out of the total 54 MLAs were present, independent sources said that 42 MLAs attended the meeting.
On his part, Sr Pawar deputed his party’s senior colleagues Sunil Tatkare, Dilip Walse Patil and Hasan Mushrif to meet and woo back Ajit Pawar to the NCP. They met Ajit Pawar at the latter’s brother Shrinivas Pawar’s place and spoke to him. They, however, failed to prevail upon Ajit Pawar to return to the parent party.
Earlier, addressing a separate news conference along with AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjuna Kharge and other senior party leaders, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said: “Na band, na baja na barat, jis tarah se mukhya mantri, Upa mukhya mantri ko shapat dilayee gayee, this incident will be written in black ink in the history of Maharashtra. I am saying this because, right from the day one the Governor conducted himself in discriminate manner against the Congress. He invited the BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP to form a Government but left out the Congress. After that, we now see the Governor invite the BJP to form a Government without verifying letter of support submitted by Ajit Pawar.”
“Instead of holding the swearing-in ceremony in full public knowledge, the Governor chose to hold the ceremony secretly in the morning. From the manner we got to see the telecast footage from ANI, I can sense that something has definitely gone wrong. People of Maharashtra and the country have faith in the Constitution. But the Govenor has undermined both the Constitution and democracy. There could not have been more shameless thing than this,” Patel said.
Condemning the Governor’s act, Patel said: “The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress were following a proper procedure in the Government formation”. He vehemently denied the allegation that it was because of the delay on the Congress’ part, the State was witnessing the advent of the BJP-led Government in the State. “We did not delay even one second in going ahead with the process of Government formation. We came to Mumbai a day after Uddhav called our president. Then we headed for the meeting the moment Sharad Pawar called us. The meeting went on for two days. We spent only time that required to follow the procedure. Whoever is saying we have delayed the procedure is making a baseless allegation. The reason for today’s development is nothing to do with us but it has happened because of the exit of some leaders from the NCP,” Patel said.
Patel said that the three party would together defeat the BJP and all those supporting in the confidence vote on the floor of the Assembly. “We will fight the BJP both politically and legally,” he said.
Sunday, 24 November 2019 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai
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