BJP Checkmates Thackerays, Sena Rebel Eknath Is CM Pick

Eknath Shinde will take oath as the new Maharashtra chief minister at 7:30 pm on Thursday.


MUMBAI: Maharashtra’s single-largest party BJP, that had won 106 seats in the 2019 Vidhan Sabha polls, on Thursday pulled off a Houdini act after it handpicked rebel Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde as the next CM of the new combine as they trucked a deal to trump the powerful Thackerays, further stretching their two-and-half-year-old ugly split.

The announcement came from Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, who despite fanfare and excitement in the saffron party camp since the last 48 hours after the Supreme Court had turned down Uddhav Thackeray’s appeal, minced no words on Shinde’s announcement, ending fortnight drama over surprise rebellion.

“Eknath Shinde will be the chief minister of Maharashtra and the oath-taking ceremony will be held at 7.30 pm today,” Fadnavis told media persons here.

As Fadnavis took Shinde to the Raj Bhawan to meet Mahrashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, they looked at ease, embracing each other and making victory poses. Shinde, after arriving from Guwahati via Goa, had rushed to Sagar — the official residence of Fadnvais in Mumbai.

There’s were celebratory scenes in Shinde camp as he spoke to rebel MLAs over a video call after the joint announcement. A long road trip, during which Shinde climbed atop an open-jeep as his frenzied supporters garlanded him, was seen in the run-up to the meeting at the Raj Bhawan.

During  the entire announcement, there was no word from the prominent leaders of National Congress Party (NCP) or Congress, the two ally partners of Uddhav-led Shiv Sena. Many in political circles still believe that Sena MP Sanjay Raut could face more scrutiny as several in old camp blame him for his ham-handed approach towards party colleagues.

“I came to power in an unexpected fashion and I am going out in a similar manner. I am not going away forever, I will be here. I will once again sit in Shiv Sena Bhawan. I will gather all my people,” Uddhav said while announcing his resignation last night.

The announcement came as surprise to many political observers who were expecting Fadnavis to take over the reign of the state. Speculations were rife that Shinde will be sworn in as the deputy chief minister.

Fadnavis, the tallest leader of BJP in Maharashtra, will stay out of the new government.

Shinde claimed that he had support by 50 MLAs including some Independents.

Only Shinde will take oath as the CM today. “After the swearing-in ceremony today, we will have a cabinet expansion and Shiv Sena and BJP leaders will take the oath,” Fadnavis, who is currently leader of Opposition, told media persons.

Speaking on the occasion, Shinde said that the Shiv Sena faction led by him is decided to the Hindutva ideology envisioned by late Bal Thackeray.

The announcement marks the culmination of high-voltage political drama which saw Uddhav Thackeray resigning as the chief minister last night after the Supreme Court ordered him to face a floor test in the Legislative Assembly.

It all started around two weeks ago when Shinde along with around two dozen Shiv Sena MLAs flew to Surat city in BJP-ruled Gujarat, camping in a hotel. They later shifted their base to Guwahati in Assam, another BJP state. They accused Uddhav of compromising on Hindutva and not listening to the grievances of Sena MLAs.

“We are committed to Balasaheb’s Hindutva and for the development of the constituencies of our MLAs,” Shinde said.

The Maharashtra Assembly has currently an effective strength of 287 members and 144 MLAs are needed to form the government. With 106 MLAs of BJP, the Shinde-BJP alliance is comfortably placed to form and run the government.

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