NCP Says 50 of Its 54 MLAs Back in Sharad Pawar's Camp after Nephew Ajit Takes over as Deputy CM
After the dramatic early morning swearing-in ceremony, leaders of the Sena and the Congress cried foul, describing the Governor's action as 'a murder of democracy'.
NCP Chief Sharad Pawar after a meeting with party MLA's in Mumbai. (PTI)
New Delhi: In a stunning turn of events in Maharashtra, BJP's Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday returned as chief minister propped up by Ajit Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who was made his deputy. The development came just hours after the new alliance of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress reached a consensus that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will be their chief ministerial candidate.
The Sena approached the Supreme Court against the "arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions" of Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari of swearing in Fadnavis.
In a day of dramatic developments capped by a meeting of the NCP legislators in Mumbai, the party clarified that 50 of its 54 MLAs were back in the Sharad Pawar camp after speculation of a revolt and defections.
Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar were sworn in by Koshyari at 8 am at a hush-hush ceremony in Mumbai after dramatic midnight developments, leading to the lifting of President's Rule in the state.
Ajit Pawar's volte face created fissures in the NCP, whose chief Sharad Pawar distanced himself from his nephew's dramatic action, saying the decision to back Fadnavis for his second consecutive term was his personal choice and not that of the party.
Later on Saturday, the NCP removed Ajit Pawar as the party's legislature unit head, saying his move was not in line with the party's policies. The decision was taken at the meeting of the party's legislators where 49 of its 54 MLAs were present, sources said.
After the dramatic early morning swearing-in ceremony, leaders of the Sena and the Congress cried foul, describing the Governor's action as “a murder of democracy”.
While Uddav Thackeray said it is a 'furgi-cal' strike on the people of Maharashtra and they would avenge it, Sena leader Sanjay Raut accused Ajit Pawar of stabbing the state’s people in the back by deciding to join the BJP.
The Congress termed the swearing-in a "black chapter" in India's history and said the BJP acted as a "contract killer" of democracy and the governor once again proved to be BJP chief Amit Shah's "hitman".
At a press conference here, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said an "opportunist" Ajit Pawar, accused by the saffron party in the past of corruption, was "scared" by the BJP of being put behind bars.
The BJP, however, asserted it had the "electoral and moral" mandate to form a government in Maharashtra and brushed aside the criticism of its alliance with NCP leader Ajit Pawar, saying the tie-up was guided by the "given situation".
Speaking to BJP workers at the party office, Fadnavis said he would give Maharashtra a strong government with Ajit Pawar's support.
Few had expected the month-long political impasse to end in such a dramatic manner. Pawar on Friday night said the new government would be led by Uddhav Thackeray. The three parties had even prepared a draft common minimum programme to guide the actions of the new government.
A day later, Sharad Pawar described Ajit Pawar's decision as an act of indiscipline. Claiming that the new BJP-led dispensation would not pass the floor test, he asserted that the Sena-NCP-Congress combine has the numbers and will form the government.
The NCP chief also rejected the speculation that Ajit's defiance was the result of a power struggle with Pawar's daughter, Supriya Sule, over the post of chief minister.
Pawar said the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena, along with independents and smaller parties, have the support of 169 to 170 MLAs, and they were ready to form the government.
After a meeting on Saturday night, Pawar said the party has the support of 50 pf its 54 MLAs. NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde, a staunch supporter of Ajit Pawar, was also present at the meeting.
Uddhav Thackeray hit out at the BJP for accusing the Sena of disrespecting people's mandate.
"I heard the Union cabinet met early this morning. Just like surgical strike against Pakistan, this was a 'furgi-cal' strike on Maharashtra... This is clear disrespect of people's mandate and the Constitution. This is a surgical strike on people of Maharashtra and they would avenge it. Everyone knows what Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj did when he was betrayed and attacked from behind," he said, adding that Sena workers will foil all attempts to poach party MLAs.
The day's dramatic events also led to a missing person complaint being filed for an MLA from the Sharad Pawar-led party.
The BJP and the Sena, which fought the assembly polls in an alliance, had secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats respectively in the 288-member House. The Sena broke its three-decade-long ties with the BJP after the latter declined to share the chief minister's post. The Congress and the NCP, pre-poll allies, won 44 and 54 seats respectively.
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