As Fadnavis quits, Uddhav says form govt or will look at options

Shubhangi Khapre, Vishwas Waghmode
Breaking his silence over the prolonged BJP-Sena stalemate, Fadnavis blamed the Shiv Sena for dishonouring the mandate of the people.

Unable to stake claim for government formation jointly with Shiv Sena despite a pre-poll alliance, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Friday submitted his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. The Governor has asked him to continue as ‘caretaker CM’ for the time being.

Breaking his silence over the prolonged BJP-Sena stalemate, Fadnavis blamed the Shiv Sena for dishonouring the mandate of the people. He expressed confidence BJP would form the government, but attacked the Sena for its high-handedness which, he said, put a question mark on the allies’ co-existence.

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“In the very first press conference after poll results (on October 24), Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said all options were open for Sena. This was a big shock especially since we were pre-poll allies. The BJP won 105 seats, Sena 56. The mandate was for the alliance,” Fadnavis said at a briefing in Sahyadri, the government guest house.

Together, the two parties had 161 MLAs, a clear majority in the 288-strong Assembly.

On his part, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said the party headquarters soon after, said his party stopped talks with BJP after it painted him as liar. “The people of Maharashtra have more faith in Shiv Sena and the Thackeray family than BJP chief Amit Shah and BJP. I have been taught by my father never to go back on my word. I was saddened that for the first time a member of the Thackeray family was portrayed as a liar,” he said addressing media soon after at party headquarters in Dadar. He was responding to Fadnavis’s remarks that sharing of CM post for two-and-a-half years was not decided between the two parties.

This was the first time Fadnavis and Thackeray elaborated about their differences in public. They did not, however, rule out joining hands in the coming days. But both also put the onus of taking forward negotiations for government formation on each other.

Recounting the discussions around power sharing, Uddhav said, “Fadnavis and Shah had come to me for alliance before Lok Sabha polls. The deputy CM’s post was offered initially but we declined and the talks were stalled. Shah called me the next day. I told him I wanted an equitable share in the CM’s post. This discussion happened in Balasaheb’s room. He (Shah) agreed and it was conveyed to Fadnavis.”

According to him, Fadnavis requested him not to make the decision of sharing the CM post public as it would create problems for him within BJP. “That’s how we decided on the line ‘equal sharing of power and responsibilities’,” he said.

But Fadnavis had a different take. “From Day 1, they were speaking to Congress-NCP leaders thrice a day. But Uddhav Thackeray refused to even take my phone call,” he said. Questioning Sena’s claim that BJP committed to 50:50 power sharing including rotation the CM’s post, he said, “During an informal talks with media, I had indicated no such decision was taken in my presence. If at all any decision was taken it would be known to Uddhav Thackeray and BJP President Amit Shah. Moreover, after discussion, it came to light that even central leadership had not given any categorical commitment to Sena on CM post. To the contrary when the issue came up the talks were suspended during the Lok Sabha 2019.”

Fadnavis said the state was heading for a care taker government and possibly even President’s rule. “I am confident a BJP-led government will be formed in Maharashtra. The people have not given us a mandate to enforce mid-term elections.” He also said the BJP would not poach MLAs from other parties or engineer defections. “The allegations made by the Opposition and the allies are misplaced and aimed at tarnishing the image of BJP,” he said.