Mumbai: Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde took oath as Maharashtra Chief Minister and Devendra Fadnavis his deputy on Thursday, as the BJP capped the coup that unseated Uddhav Thackeray a day ago with back-to-back curveballs.
“I will stay out of the government and ensure it runs smoothly,” Mr Fadnavis said at a news briefing around 4:30 pm, announcing that only Mr Shinde will be sworn in later in the evening.
However, barely three hours later, he was seen taking oath as Mr Shinde’s deputy after BJP chief JP Nadda said, “He must be Deputy Chief Minister… I will personally request him.”
Eknath Shinde thanked PM Modi, Mr Fadnavis and other BJP leaders. “It’s their magnanimity.
They had a bigger mandate, yet they made me the Chief Minister. Who does that?” he said.
Devendra Fadnavis and Eknath Shinde met with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and staked claim to power earlier in the afternoon.
Uddhav Thackeray quit as Maharashtra Chief Minister yesterday, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that he must prove his majority.
The Shiv Sena chief was left with only 13 MLAs after the revolt that played out in three BJP-ruled states. Eknath Shinde and a group of rebels first moved to Gujarat’s Surat in luxury buses. They were flown to Assam’s Guwahati in chartered flights. They landed in Goa last evening to prepare for a possible test of strength.
Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson for the Sena rebels, stressed that it was ideology, and not greed for better posts, that drove them to switch sides and go with the BJP.
He also said the rebels did not betray Uddhav Thackeray and still have love and respect for him. “Nobody in Shiv Sena is against the Thackeray family,” he said.
He asserted that the rebel faction is the Shiv Sena now, since Uddhav Thackeray is in a minority in the party. “It’s not a question of who is the real Shiv Sena. We have the legal majority and thus ours is the legislature party,” he said.
Despite evidence of its protection and facilitation of the rebels, the BJP denied any role in the Shiv Sena coup. Devendra Fadnavis held two meetings with the leadership during the crisis. A third meeting saw Eknath Shinde being flown from Guwahati to Vadodara for discussions with Mr Fadnavis and Home Minister Amit Shah, the BJP’s chief strategist.