Outnumbered after a rebellion in his own party and realising he will not be able to prove majority on the floor of the Assembly, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray resigned Wednesday night, shortly after the Supreme Court declined to stay a floor test called Thursday by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
His resignation as CM and MLC, which he announced in a Facebook address to the public, brought to an end the 31-month-old rule of the MVA and set the stage for the return of a BJP-led government. Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hopes to be back in power with the help of 39 Shiv Sena rebel MLAs led by Eknath Shinde, independents and legislators of smaller parties.
“I have no regrets about leaving the CM’s chair. Whatever I did, I did for the Marathi people and Hindutva. Today, in front of everyone, I am announcing my resignation as CM of the state,” Uddhav said in a speech that lasted 15 minutes. He said he was also resigning as MLC.
Before bowing out, he said he was happy to fulfil his father’s wish of renaming Aurangabad and Osmanabad. “Today, there was a cabinet meeting and I am satisfied that my life’s wish has been fulfilled. The initial idea of renaming Aurangabad, mooted by Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, has been fulfilled and we have renamed it as Sambhaji Nagar. We have also renamed Osmanabad as Dharashiv,” he said.
“I was happy over the renaming of Aurangabad. I, however, felt sad that when this resolution was passed, only four Sena ministers were present — me, (son) Aaditya, Subhash Desai and Anil Parab. All the other Sena ministers, who should have been here, were absent and you know the reason why. When we presented the renaming resolution, the Congress or NCP did not oppose it. I would like to thank them. Those who should have done this earlier stayed away while those who we thought would oppose this, stayed with us,” he said.
He thanked NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and their parties for the support.
There’s a big question mark on the future of the Sena and the Thackerays. The Sena split at the top appears to be complete but it remains to be seen how it plays out on the ground, now and in the foreseeable future.
To the public, he said, “You gave me a lot of love, you listened to my advice. In these times, there have been a lot of communal riots in the country, but there were no riots in Maharashtra because of you, my sensible citizens of Maharashtra. There were also riots over the CAA and NRC, but there were no riots in the state. Muslims also listened to it, it must be mentioned.”
Slamming the rebel MLAs, Uddhav said those bestowed with important positions by the party had betrayed the Sena.
“The Sena made common men, people who drove rickshaws, ran small shops as corporators, MLAs, MPs and ministers. These people have now become big. Those who were given everything by the party are now saying they are angry while common Sainiks, who have not received anything in the past, are today strongly standing behind the party,” he said.
He took a swipe at Governor Koshyari: “I also want to thank the Governor that he upheld the values of democracy. Within 24 hours of receiving a letter for a floor test, the Governor gave directions for it. I want to remind the
Governor that the same respect for the values of democracy should also be shown for a decision pending with him for over one-and-half years regarding approval of the nomination of 12 members of the Legislative Council. If that list is accepted expeditiously even now, we will continue to respect you.”
He said the Congress and NCP remained committed to the idea of the MVA and backed the Shiv Sena.
“The important issue is that there was constant talk that some may betray this alliance but they remained with us. Even today, after the cabinet meeting, Ashok Chavan told me that if your people are angry about the NCP and Congress being part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, we are ready to exit and give outside support to the government,” he said.
He said security had been increased in Mumbai at the behest of the Central government and notices were being served to Shiv Sean workers.
“Today, bandobast has increased in Mumbai on the instructions of the Central government. Many Shiv Sainiks have been given prohibitory orders, CRPF has been called, the military too may be called,” he said.
He appealed to the Sena workers not to hinder the movements of the rebel MLA when they reach Mumbai Thursday.
“I want to assure the MLAs that Shiv Sainiks will not come in your way when you go for the swearing-in ceremony. A floor test is scheduled for tomorrow. There will be a count of how many MLAs MVA has, how many BJP has. Why should heads only be used for a headcount? Should they not be used to get work done? This is the unfortunate aspect of democracy that heads are only used to count who has the majority. I am not interested in this,” he said.
“They (BJP) wish to celebrate that they made Shiv Sena pramukh Balasaheb Thackeray’s son step down from the CM post and took power from the Shiv Sena. We cannot snatch that happiness from them and we should not do it. Hence, I am appealing to all Shiv Sainiks not to get in their way.”
Earlier, in the evening, as lawyers of the Sena factions were battling it out in the Supreme Court, Uddhav thanked his cabinet colleagues for their support over the last two-and-a-half years and apologised for the “betrayal” by his colleagues. He also told some cabinet colleagues that if the Supreme Court were to order in favour of the floor test, he may resign ahead of the vote.
A source who attended the meeting quoted Uddhav saying “My colleagues have betrayed me. I apologise for this. This was unexpected. We did a new experiment in the country and parties of different views came together. We did not just speak, but came together and showed. We didn’t realise how these two-and-half years passed. Our relations will continue and I will pray for this. Governments come and go. In politics, there is conflict. I don’t know whether the floor test will happen. If I have hurt anyone, please forgive me.”
He walked out of the cabinet meeting with folded hands with son Aaditya by his side.