Devendra Fadnavis, the two-time Chief Minister of Maharashtra who was widely expected to have a third turn at the post, today said it was his idea that Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde take the job instead. Mr Fadnavis, after announcing on Thursday morning that he would stay out of the government, took oath as Mr Shinde’s Deputy in the evening.
Speaking to reporters in Nagpur today, Mr Fadnavis said, “It will not be wrong if it is said that I took this proposal (to the BJP leadership) that Shinde is made the chief minister and they (the leadership) accepted it”.
“Our leaders Narendra Modi ji, Amit Shah and JP Nadda ji, and with my approval (the decision to make Shinde the chief minister was taken),” he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Ever since Mr Shinde started his rebellion, declaring that Sena should renew its alliance with the BJP and rule Maharashtra, and his numbers started growing, there was a buzz that Mr Fadnavis will return as the Chief Minster for a third time. Till the morning of June 30, when Mr Fadnavis made his surprise announcement, the media had been reporting about his comeback.
In the evening came the bigger surprise, with BJP chief JP Nadda’s announcement that Mr Fadnavis should be part of the government as Mr Shinde’s Deputy. Then party chief strategist Amit Shah tweeted that Mr Fadnavis has accepted.
Mr Fadnavis, who in a series of tweets made it clear that he was just obeying orders, today said he was not mentally prepared to accept the post.
“I changed my decision obeying the orders of my leaders,” underscored the leader, who had been on a mission mode to oust the Uddhav Thackeray government since it came to power in 2019 after the Shiv Sena split its decades-long alliance with the BJP and tied up with the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.
Yesterday, Eknath Shinde had announced the open secret that Mr Fadnavis was brain behind the recent developments in the state.
“Our numbers were less (than BJP’s) but PM Narendra Modi blessed us. Modi saheb told me before the swearing in that he will extend all possible help to me. Amit Shah saheb said he will stand behind us like a rock,” Mr Shinde said. Then pointing to Mr Fadnavis, he added, “But the biggest kalakaar (artist) is this one… The one who orchestrated everything is here… “We used to meet while my group MLAs were asleep and return (to Guwahati) before they woke up”.
Mr Fadnavis today said though the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had won the 2019 elections, the mandate was “stolen”. So his party and the Shiv Sena faction led by Mr Shinde came together for a “common ideology and not for power”.
The new government came to power a day after Uddhav Thackeray resigned as the Chief Minister ahead of a floor test. He announced his decision on the evening of June 29, shortly after the Supreme Court declared that he has to take the test for majority as ordered by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
In the confidence motion yesterday, the Eknath Shinde camp received 164 votes in the 288-member assembly, way above the simple majority mark of 144. Only 99 MLAs voted against it — down from the 107 votes the Opposition scraped up during the voting for the Speaker’s post on Sunday.