Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his deputy Ajit Pawar resigned from their posts on Tuesday afternoon, just three days after they took oath in a surprise development. Hours earlier, the Supreme Court had asked their alliance to prove its majority in the state Assembly by Wednesday evening.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is now expected to succeed Fadnavis in the post, in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress. The three parties together have 154 MLAs and may get support from some smaller parties and Independents as well. The majority mark in the state Assembly is 145.
“We don’t have majority after Ajit Pawar’s resignation as deputy CM,” Fadnavis told reporters. “Ajit Pawar told me he was quitting due to personal reasons.”
He said the BJP will become the voice of the people as a responsible and effective Opposition. “We won’t indulge in horse-trading,” he said, referring to the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance as “an auto-rickshaw with its three wheels running in different directions that would topple over”, PTI reported. “It will crumble under its own weight,” Fadnavis said, according to India Today.
Fadnavis claimed those accusing the BJP of indulging in horse-trading had themselves bought an “entire stable”.
The three-day stint was Fadnavis’s second as chief minister, coming just weeks after he completed his first term, which lasted the full five years. In his first tenure, the BJP leader had run a government with the Shiv Sena as a coalition partner. The two parties fought last month’s Assembly elections together, but post-election disagreements on power-sharing forced the Shiv Sena to move away from the alliance and seek support from ideologically opposite Congress and NCP. They were in the last stages of finalising their coalition when Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar unexpectedly took oath.
Even during his press conference, Fadnavis claimed that the mandate in the Assembly elections was more for the BJP than for the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena had 56 seats, the NCP 54, and the Congress 44.
“In elections, a clear majority was given to Mahayuti [BJP-Shiv Sena alliance] and BJP got maximum 105 seats,” he said. “We contested with Shiv Sena, but this mandate was for BJP because BJP won 70% seats out of all seats we contested.”
He said the BJP had waited for the Shiv Sena for a long time but they did not respond and instead talked to the Congress and NCP. “People who never stepped outside Matoshree [the home of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray] to meet anyone were going door to door to make government with NCP and Congress,” he said.
“The Shiv Sena’s Hindutva now rests at the feet of [Congress president] Sonia Gandhi. Everyone is seeing this,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar’s departure from his official party line is expected to be brief, as the Shiv Sena claimed he would be with its alliance now. “Ajit dada has resigned and he is with us,” Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said. “Uddhav Thackeray will be the chief minister of Maharashtra for five years.”
Despite having just 105 MLAs, Fadnavis’s Bharatiya Janata Party was able to form a government early on Saturday, purportedly with support from 54 MLAs of Ajit Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. However, hours after Pawar sided with the BJP, his own party said it did not endorse his action and would go ahead with another alliance it had been negotiating for two weeks – with the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress had then moved the Supreme Court against the state governor’s decision to invite Fadnavis to form government. Gradually, most NCP MLAs who had appeared to back Ajit Pawar returned to their official party fold. On Monday evening, the three parties got all their MLAs to assemble in a hotel room for a show of strength, and claimed they were 162 in number – well over the majority mark.
No more having enough MLAs to prop up the BJP in the Assembly on Wednesday, Pawar was the first to resign as the deputy chief minister on Tuesday afternoon. Fadnavis later held a press conference and said he would soon meet the governor and do the same.