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Maharashtra: Rebel Sena MLA Eknath Shinde to be New CM, Announces BJP’s Fadnavis

No decision yet on continuing MVA; Cong leaders meet Thackeray. Patole says party will contest coming local body polls on its own.
Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis

Image: ANI

Mumbai:  Springing a surprise, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday announced that rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde will be the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Fadnavis's announcement defied expectations that he would return as chief minister with the support of the Shinde faction.

Shinde alone will take oath of office at 7.30 p.m, 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 leader of 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.

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 alliance with Congress and NCP was insult of the mandate of the 2019 Assembly polls when Sena and BJP had fought the polls together, he said.

"Uddhav Thackeray aligned with parties (Congress and NCP) whom (Sena founder) Bal Thackeray opposed all his life," Fadnavis claimed.

Speaking later, Eknath 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.


Congress Leaders Meet Uddhav Thackeray

Earlier, Maharashtra Congress leaders met Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at his residence `Matoshree' in suburban Bandra a day after he resigned as chief minister.

It was a courtesy call as they had worked with Thackeray as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government for the last two-and-half years, said Congress leader Nitin Raut.

As to whether the MVA, an alliance of Sena, Congress and NCP, would continue, he said it was yet to be discussed.

Congress would function as an Opposition party, he said.

State Congress chief Nana Patole said the party would contest the coming local body polls on its own, while the decision as to whether to continue the alliance for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls would be taken by the party leadership.

The three parties would be together in raising issues concerning common people, Patole said.

Besides Raut and Patole, Congress leaders Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Amit Deshmukh, Sunil Kedar and Yashomati Thakur met Thackeray.

"We assured Thackeray that Congress is with him and we would fight the new government on the political as well as legal fronts as it is coming to power through corrupt means," Chavan told PTI.

The Sena chief told them that he would not give up, Chavan added.

From the Sena's side, Thackeray's son Aaditya, Sachin Ahir, Vinayak Raut, Bhaskar Jadhav, Diwakar Raote and Subhash Desai were present, sources said.

Thackeray resigned as chief minister on Wednesday after the Supreme Court greenlighted a floor test following rebellion by Sena leader Eknath Shinde and majority of Sena MLAs.

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