Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Friday questioned the BJP’s decision to install a “so-called Shiv Sainik” as Maharashtra chief minister when it did not keep its 2019 promise of rotating the top post and slammed the new government’s move to relocate a Mumbai Metro car shed to green belt of Aarey Colony, reversing a key decision of the previous regime.
In his first public comments after stepping down as chief minister on June 29, Thackeray took on the former ally BJP and accused it of not honouring what he claimed was an understanding between him and Union minister Amit Shah to rotate the CM’s post between the two saffron parties after the 2019 Assembly polls.
A day after taking over as Deputy Chief Minister, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who first announced not to join the Eknath Shinde-led government only to relent later, was conspicuous by his absence during a celebration held at the party’s state headquarters.
The programme at the party office in south Mumbai was meant to celebrate its return to power in Maharashtra after two-and-half years following the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government.
Addressing a press conference, Thackeray refused to accept Eknath Shinde as a “Shiv Sena chief minister” and wondered what the BJP has gained by not having its own leader at the helm for the remaining term of the top office.
Thackeray also made a fervent appeal to the Shinde-led government, which will face floor test in the Assembly on July 4, not to go ahead with the Metro-3 car shed project at Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon which was declared a reserved forest by the previous MVA regime.
The former CM asked the BJP not to betray Mumbai on the car shed issue like it “betrayed” him in power politics.
“Let the Metro car shed project be at Kanjurmarg (the site chosen by MVA government) and not in Aarey. I am with the environmentalists and we had declared Aarey as a reserved forest. Wildlife exists in that forest,” he said.
In their first cabinet meeting held on Thursday, Shinde and deputy chief minister Fadnavis directed the state administration to submit a proposal to build the Metro-3 car shed in Aarey Colony instead of Kanjurmarg. The Thackeray-led government had shifted the proposed car shed site to Kanjurmarg from Aarey Colony, but the move got embroiled in a legal dispute.
Thackeray asked the BJP why it first denied that there was no agreement on rotational chief minister two-and-a-half years ago. Had the BJP agreed, the change of power would have happened in a graceful and dignified manner, he said.
“The way this (Shinde) government was formed and those (the BJP) who formed the government they have said that a ‘so called Shiv Sainik’ has been made the chief minister.
“Had everything taken place as decided between me and Amit Shah, the change of power would have been graceful and I would not have become the chief minister or the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) would not have been formed,” Thackeray said at the press meet at Shiv Sena Bhavan.
Asserting that Shinde is “not a Shiv Sena chief minister”, Thackeray said there can be no Shiv Sena by keeping the party aside.
Springing a surprise, Fadnavis on Thursday evening announced that Shinde, who led the revolt in the Shiv Sena, would be the new chief minister of the state.
“Those who did not keep the word two-and-a-half-years back and by back-stabbing (the Sena) again attempts are made to create confusion among the Shiv Sainiks by calling it (Shinde) a Shiv Sena CM, then this is not a Sena CM. There can be no Sena CM by keeping the Sena aside,” Thackeray said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear on July 11 the plea of Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu seeking suspension from assembly of Chief Minister Shinde and 15 rebel MLAs against whom disqualification pleas are pending, saying it was fully conscious of the issue. A vacation bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala was urged by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Prabhu, that the interim plea needed an urgent hearing due to the pendency of disqualification proceedings against 16 lawmakers including the chief minister.
Shinde has said his elevation to the top post is due to the masterstroke by Fadnavis.
People thought that the BJP was desperate for power. But truly, this is a masterstroke by Devendra ji. To hand over power to another person despite having larger numbers (of MLAs) requires a big heart,” he told a TV channel.
Hours after taking oath as CM, Shinde landed in Goa at midnight to meet his colleagues who had supported him in rebelling against the Shiv Sena leadership. “My colleagues and entire Maharashtra is happy that Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sainik has become the chief minister of the state,” Shinde said at the Goa Airport. The Shiv Sena accused the BJP of gaining power in the state through immoral means and asked why the party did not honour the pact of rotational chief minister in 2019 if Fadnavis had to take oath as the deputy chief minister.
In an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the Sena recalled late prime minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who once said that he did not believe in breaking parties and securing power and that the present BJP should take a note of it.