New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Monday won the trust vote in the assembly and is set to head the state government with a new ally, the BJP.
Shiv Sena leader Shinde, whose coup toppled the previous government of his party chief Uddhav Thackeray, got 164 votes in his favour, comfortably above the 144 required in the 288-seat assembly. The Opposition got 99.
Incidentally, the Opposition got 107 votes during the speaker election on Sunday as several MLAs, including senior Congress leaders such as Ashok Chavan and Vijay Wadettiwar, stayed absent on Monday.
Shinde will be in charge of the government with former BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.
Shinde was sworn in as chief minister last Thursday, capping a 10-day-long rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray who he blamed for moving away from the party’s principles by aligning with ideologically mismatched parties.
The previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was a mishmash of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.
The strength test came a day after ally BJP’s Rahul Narwekar was elected Speaker in the ongoing special session of the Maharashtra assembly.
The Speaker’s post was vacant since February 2021 after the Congress’ Nana Patole resigned to take guard as the party’s state unit chief. In the absence of a Speaker, Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal took up the job of acting Speaker in the House.
Narwekar’s election is significant as the ‘original’ Shiv Sena’s appeal to disqualify 16 rebel MLAs — including Eknath Shinde — is still pending.
After the trust vote, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “I thank the invisible hands who stayed out and helped us win.”
He added: “Eknath Shinde is a staunch Shiv Sainik and a dedicated follower of Balasaheb Thackeray. From a ‘karyakarta’, ‘vibhag pramukh’ and other responsible posts, he has now become the chief minister.”
Earlier this month, several Shiv Sena MLAs under Shinde’s leadership broke away from the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA, causing the Shiv Sena President to resign and the government to fall. The numbers in the Shinde camp swelled to 39 and eventually by Monday to 40 after MLA Santosh Bangar also joined the leader.
The rebel Shiv Sena faction formed a government with the BJP with Shinde as chief minister and Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy. Both took oath on Thursday.
The new government passed its first major test on Sunday when it elected its new Speaker, BJP MLA Rahul Narwekar. One of Narwekar’s first decisions was to roll back the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s decision to remove Shinde as the party’s group leader in the assembly.
He reinstated Eknath Shinde as the Shiv Sena’s legislative party leader and also recognised his nominee Bharat Gogawale as chief whip.
After Shinde’s rebellion, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray ousted him as the party’s group leader and appointed MLA Ajay Chaudhari. Later, Thackeray also stripped Shinde of the post of a ‘Shiv Sena neta’ saying he had indulged in anti-party activities and had voluntarily given up his membership.
In a letter on 3 July, Speaker Narwekar, taking note of the Shinde camp’s letter objecting to the Sena rebel’s removal as group leader, scrapped Chaudhari’s appointment and upheld Shinde’s position as group leader. The Speaker further removed Sunil Prabhu, a Shiv Sena MLA from the Thackeray camp, as chief whip and appointed Bharat Gogavale, an MLA from the Shinde camp.
The Shiv Sena was hoping to disqualify the 39 rebel MLAs if they did not vote in favour of its candidate, Salvi.
Shiv Sena’s Prabhu had also approached the Supreme Court seeking the suspension of Shinde and 15 MLAs against whom disqualification proceedings were pending. The court said it was “fully conscious” of the issue, but agreed to hear it only on 11 July, along with the main petition of the 16 rebel MLAs against the disqualification notices.
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