MUMBAI: Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde will be the new chief minister of Maharashtra, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said on Thursday. The dramatic announcement came after Fadnavis and Shinde met Governor B S Koshyari at Raj Bhavan.
Earlier, it was considered to be a foregone conclusion that Fadnavis will become the CM for the third time, in alliance with the Shinde-led Sena rebels.
Shinde alone will take oath of office at Raj Bhavan in 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," Shinde told the media. The BJP will extend support to Shinde's group, said Fadnavis, a former chief minister and currently the leader of the opposition in the Assembly.
BJP is the single largest party in the legislature.
"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.
Addressing the media after meeting the Governor, the senior BJP leader said, "in 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, people voted for BJP-Shiv Sena alliance but that mandate was insulted and Maha Vikas Aghadi government was formed."
"Eknath Shinde is group leader of Shiv Sena who wanted to end alliance with Congress and NCP but Uddhav Thackeray did not oblige," he said further.
"In 2019 BJP and Shiv Sena had an alliance and we got required numbers in Assembly elections. We hoped to form the government but Shiv Sena chose to get into an alliance with those against whom Balasaheb protested throughout his life. Shiv Sena formed an alliance with those who are against Hindutva and Savarkar. Shiv Sena insulted the mandate of the people," Fadnavis said further.
"Shiv Sena MLAs were demanding that the alliance with Congress and NCP should be ended but Uddhav Thackeray ignored these MLAs and gave priority to MVA alliance partners, that's why these MLAs intensified their voices," he added.
"Fadnavis could have become CM going by the numbers but he showed a big heart and I thank him. The new government in Maharashtra will get the backing of PM Modi, Amit Shah and J P Nadda," said CM-designate Eknath Shinde.
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 an alliance with Congress and NCP was an insult of the mandate of the 2019 Assembly polls when Sena and BJP had fought the polls together, he said.
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, 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.
Shinde, who was a senior minister in the Thackeray government, lauded Fadnavis for giving up the opportunity to become CM, saying the BJP leader showed large-heartedness in making "Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sainik" the next CM.
When 50 MLAs take a decision, it calls for introspection, he said, without naming Uddhav Thackeray.
Shinde, who arrived in Mumbai from Goa on Thursday afternoon, met Fadnavis at the latter's official residence in south Mumbai following the collapse of the MVA dispensation a day ago.
Shinde and Fadnavis held a brief meeting before both of them headed to the Raj Bhavan along with several BJP leaders.
They also submitted the letters of the supporting MLAs to Governor B S Koshyari to stake claim for government formation, BJP leaders said.
The BJP has said that it has the support of a total of 170 MLAs, including those from Shinde's rebel faction.
The Mumbai police had made heavy security arrangements in view of Shinde's arrival in the city.
Roads were emptied so that Shinde's cavalcade faces no hindrance while going to 'Sagar', the official bungalow of Fadnavis located at Malabar Hill in south Mumbai.
Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Vishwas Nangre Patil led the cavalcade himself while other police officials stood guard throughout the route for quick movement and also to ensure that there were no protests by Shiv Sena supporters, an official said.
"Shinde, who landed at Mumbai airport by chartered flight this afternoon, was escorted by the senior police officials from the airport to South Mumbai. Traffic on the route was stopped to facilitate the passage Shinde's convoy," officials said.
Shinde was seen waving to supporters throughout the route.
Some Shiv Sena workers, who tried to hold a protest outside 'Sagar', were detained, the officials added.
(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)