Dhananjay Munde, the legislator from Parli and nephew of a former Maharashtra chief minister who defeated his cousin in a bitter battle last month, might be the key to decoding the dramatic events of Saturday morning, when the BJP turned tables on Shiv Sena and brought back Devendra Fadnavis as CM with the help of NCP MLAs led by Ajit Pawar.
Munde, party sources had claimed, played a key role in aiding Ajit Pawar in the move to support the BJP and Fadnavis, away from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But after avoiding the limelight for most of Saturday, he dramatically returned to the fold on Saturday evening and attended a meeting that had been called by Sharad Pawar.
Meanwhile, legislators who attended the oath-taking ceremony claimed it was at Munde’s home that they were summoned at 7am, following which they were taken to the governor’s house for the swearing-in at 7:50am.
On Saturday, Sharad Pawar held a press conference with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and attacked Ajit, while claiming that three of MLAs had ‘returned’. Ajit was also removed as the NCP legislature party chief, where the party claimed that 42 of its 54 legislators were present.
A popular leader in Maharashtra, Dhananjay is the nephew of former Maharashtra CM Gopinath Munde and was earlier with the BJP. But after Gopinath Munde fielded his daughter Pankaja from Parli – a family stronghold – he left the BJP and joined NCP. Last month, he defeated his cousin Pankaja Munde in Maharastra’s elections.
The Maharashtra saga will reach the doors of the Supreme Court on Sunday as the SC will hear a petition by the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress against the "arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions" of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in swearing-in Fadnavis as chief minister. The bench, which will hear the petition at 11.30am, comprises Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
The petition sought that the court issue appropriate directions to summon a special session of the 14th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly with the only agenda of administering oath to the MLAs, immediately followed by the holding of a floor test on Sunday, in order to thwart horse-trading and "illegal manoeuvres" in the state.
News18 approached Constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Acharya to assess the relevance of the anti-defection law in the case of Maharashtra coup. Acharya said, "The anti-defection law has a conditional applicability in this scenario. The main point of contention is whether Ajit has broken away from the NCP. If he has broken away from the party, then the law applies to them. Whether junior Pawar has overstepped senior Pawar in terms of party ranks is beyond the purview of the Constitution. Here, senior Pawar has to move quickly and prove the split.”