CAPPING DAYS of dramatic political developments and speculation, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Thursday, almost a month after the Assembly election results were declared.
Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari also administered the oath of office to Shiv Sena leaders Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai, NCP leaders Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal, and Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut. The Cabinet is likely to be expanded after the trust vote, which has to be held before December 3.
Thackeray (59), who will lead the Maha Vikas Aghadi — the Sena-NCP-Congress post-poll alliance — was sworn in at 6:42 pm, in front of a huge crowd at Shivaji Park, where the party was formed in 1966 and where its founder Bal Thackeray was cremated in 2012.
Hours later, he chaired his first Cabinet meeting. While the alliance, in its Common Minimum Programme, said it would ensure “immediate” farm loan waiver, the Cabinet put off a decision for now. Instead, in a symbolic move, the first decision was to approve Rs 20 crore for conserving Raigad Fort, which was the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Thackeray said he would call for a white paper on farmers’ schemes and expenditure before taking a decision. “I have asked the Chief Secretary to give us a realistic picture about the schemes implemented by the state and central governments, and the assistance provided to farmers so far. We are determined to extend assistance to farmers that will make them happy. After getting the information in a day or two, we will take a decision,” he said. “We are fortunate that the first proposal approved was to sanction the next installment of Rs 20 crore for the Raigad fort.”
The project for restoration of the fort, estimated to cost Rs 605 crore, was announced by the previous BJP-led government, which had released an initial amount of Rs 20 crore.
Thackeray said the previous state government had only announced a farm loan waiver, but the funds were not credited to the farmers’ accounts. “I don’t want to restrict myself to making announcements. I want to give money in the hands of farmers,” he said. “This government will be of the common people. It will work towards ensuring that no resident of the state feels that he is living under threat,” he said.
Thackeray is the third Sena leader — after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane — and the first from his family to occupy the top post.
At the oath-taking ceremony, as party workers shouted slogans and burst firecrackers, Thackeray took the blessings of his aunt Kunda, mother of Raj Thackeray.
The loudest cheers, after Thackeray, were reserved for NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who was instrumental in bringing the three parties together after the Sena fell out with pre-poll ally BJP.
Among those present at the ceremony were senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and DMK leader M K Stalin. While the Sena had sent invitations to nearly all the non-BJP chief ministers, only Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath was in attendance.
Outgoing CM Devendra Fadnavis, senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil, NCP leader Ajit Pawar and his cousin and MP Supriya Sule were also present.
On Tuesday, three days after he was sworn in as Chief Minister with Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister, Fadnavis resigned from the post, clearing the decks for a Shiv Sena-led government with NCP and Congress as partners. With Ajit Pawar resigning as Deputy Chief Minister following the Supreme Court’s order on a floor test, Fadnavis said he no longer had majority. Ajit Pawar has since returned to the Sharad Pawar-led party fold.
In the House of 288 members, the BJP has 105, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54, Congress 44. The remaining 29 represent smaller parties and independents.