Updated: July 5, 2022 5:43:13 am
A DAY after it won the Speaker’s election with 164 votes, the BJP-Shinde group coalition cleared the confidence motion in the Maharashtra Assembly on Monday with the same tally as Chief Minister Eknath Shinde pledged to “take forward Hindutva” and a “development agenda” in the state.
The last phase of the two-day special session, triggered by the fall of the MVA government last week following a split in the Shiv Sena, was marked by an emotional speech from Shinde.
The Chief Minister referred to the death of two of his children in a boat accident in June 2000 among the challenges he has faced — and said he decided to lead the rebel Sena faction following a “plan” within the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray to “political finish” him.
“My two children died in front of me and I completely collapsed after that. I was not going out and had decided to leave everything. I would spend time with only my wife and son Shrikant (now an MP). But Dighe saheb (Shinde’s mentor, the late Anand Dighe) supported me and helped me come out of the situation. I then dedicated my life to work,” Shinde said.
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The session also saw taunts by the new Opposition which chanted “ED, ED” in an apparent reference to the Enforcement Directorate, the central agency that is probing several state leaders, during the headcount. But Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis retorted: “Yes… this is an ED sarkar (government) but ED means Eknath and Devendra.”
The other point of note in Monday’s session was that 11 Congress and two NCP MLAs did not cast their vote. The division of votes showed 164 in favour of the motion, 99 against, and 24 absent votes, which included the new Speaker Rahul Narwekar.
Among the others who did not cast their votes were two ailing BJP members and two jailed NCP members, and MLAs from other smaller parties, and Independents.
After clearing the floor test, Shinde announced the new government’s first major decision — to reduce Value Added Tax (VAT) and bring down petrol and diesel prices. Shinde also said that agriculture would get a boost to ensure zero farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra. On the political front, he said: “It will be our endeavour to win 200 seats out of 288 in the state assembly.” If he fails to do so, Shinde said: “I will retire to my village and do farming.”
He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told him to “work for the larger wellbeing of the people of Maharashtra” while Union Home Minister Amit Shah reassured him that the BJP “will always stand with you like a rock”.
Speaking about the Sena revolt, Shinde said: “The unease to continue in the alliance with Congress-NCP, which went against our political mentors and leaders Bal Thackeray and Anand Dighe, led to this revolt. It was neither driven by greed for power nor post of CM.”
The Shinde faction, meanwhile, had swelled to 40 ahead of the trust vote with the addition of another Shiv Sena MLA, Santosh Bangar. “At least three more members are willing to come to our side voluntarily. We have never exerted pressure on anybody to come with us,” Shinde said.
“I don’t know what happened after the treatment meted out to me. But Balasaheb had said that for justice, one should revolt or rebel… back to back phone calls started and people (rebel MLAs) started joining… (NCP leaders) Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar, CM (Thackeray) also started calling me. I was asked where are you going and when will I be back… not a single MLA said ‘let me first meet CM Thackeray’… this was the trust the MLAs had in me,” he said
According to Shinde, when he left Mumbai for Surat after the MLC elections last month, the Sena got his cell phone location and started roadblocks to stop him from leaving the state but he got through.
He also said that he met Fadnavis in secret when the rebel MLAs were camping in Guwahati. “No one came to know how and when we would meet. I used to go at night and come back in the morning,” Shinde said.
Striking a reconciliatory note, he said: “We don’t subscribe to the politics of vendetta. I reassure my political rivals that we will not indulge in coercive politics…I urge them (Shiv Sena) to reconcile to the ground reality and accept that we have the majority.”
Fadnavis, meanwhile, praised Shinde and said “humanity and compassion are the attributes” that make him “stand apart from others”. “He works 24×7, always at the forefront firefighting any crisis to serve the common man,” he said
However, NCP’s Ajit Pawar, who is now Leader of Opposition, cautioned Shinde. “All those who have revolted in the Shiv Sena have failed to make headway. Individual leaders retain their seats but the followers don’t succeed,” he said.
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