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Reversing Aarey decision, Goa party, rain relief meet — Eknath Shinde’s busy first day as CM

Within minutes of being named Maharashtra's next CM, Eknath Shinde updated his Twitter display picture to an image of him at the feet of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

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Mumbai: From overturning his former boss and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s decision on the Aarey Metro car shed to reprimanding his fellow rebel MLAs for their dance in Goa — Eknath Shinde had an eventful first day as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Shinde took oath as Chief Minister Thursday evening after a 10-day political drama in Maharashtra during which he orchestrated a coup against the Shiv Sena by first taking a bunch of MLAs to Surat (then Guwahati and Dabolim), before the numbers swelled to include the majority of the party’s 55 MLAs.

Uddhav threw in the towel Wednesday after realising the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government — comprising the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — did not have the numbers to clear a floor test in the Maharashtra assembly.

Within minutes of BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis announcing Shinde’s name as the chief minister, the rebel Shiv Sena leader updated his Twitter bio and display picture.

Shinde, who has been insisting that his faction is following Bal Thackeray’s ideology, changed his display picture to an image of him at the feet of the Shiv Sena founder.

Immediately after his swearing-in, Shinde met his father, daughter-in-law, and grandson at the Raj Bhavan. He was also photographed cuddling his grandson Rudransh.

While Shinde could not visit his house in Thane, he was served a home-cooked lunch Friday, which arrived from rebel MLA Uday Samant’s house in Ratnagiri district, a source close to the new CM told ThePrint.

From the Raj Bhavan, Shinde went straight to the Mantralaya, the state secretariat, along with Fadnavis, who has been sworn in as Deputy CM. There, he offered flowers and bowed before the pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Later, Shinde met civil servants, entered his sixth-floor office, and held his first cabinet meeting (currently just the CM and Deputy CM have taken the oath). He also addressed the media in the Mantralaya press room.

“This is a new beginning and we have an experienced deputy with us. So, I am confident that development work will have no obstacles. And all these works will get a push now,” he told reporters.

One of the first decisions that Shinde took was to overturn the MVA’s decision on moving the Metro car depot out of the ecologically sensitive Aarey Milk Colony to Kanjurmarg.

The car depot location has been a point of conflict between the Shiv Sena and the BJP with the former strongly opposing the car depot in Aarey due to environmental concerns. It was Aaditya Thackeray who had spearheaded the campaign against the Aarey project. The BJP was in favour of the car shed, saying it will help speed up the delayed project.

Another first-day decision was the revival of Jalyukt Shivar, a scheme to increase the moisture content of soil with small localised projects, that was introduced by Fadnavis when he was CM as his flagship project. The former MVA government had scrapped the project in 2020.


Also Read: Power, party, dignity, father’s legacy — what all Uddhav Thackeray is losing in Maharashtra


Midnight celebration and a reprimand

Shinde then flew to Goa where grand celebrations awaited him.

“He (Shinde) reached Goa around midnight where all the MLAs and other colleagues welcomed him. We burst crackers, offered him a shawl and bouquet, and served him pedhas (a type of sweet),” Ram Repale, a Shinde loyalist who has been with the leader in Goa, told ThePrint.

“There were cake-cutting celebrations as three of his colleagues, including MLA Sanjay Rathod, had their birthdays. They had a small party.”

There was a slight hiccup in the celebrations as Shinde reprimanded some MLAs for a viral video where they were seen dancing when the news of his elevation as CM became public.

By Friday morning, Shinde was back to business. “This morning, we had a small function to pay tributes to former CM Vasantrao Naik on his birth anniversary and then he held meetings with all MLAs,” Repale said.

Shinde met many of the 38 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs in his camp one-on-one to decide the group’s strategy going forward, and left for Mumbai after 3 pm amid heavy rains to hold meetings with the disaster management cell.

Shinde also took a decision to create a government medical college in Ratnagiri, the proposal for which was pending. The move was seen as aimed at appeasing Samant, a cabinet minister in the MVA government. Samant tweeted about the decision.


Also Read: Shinde or Uddhav, which is the real Sena? All eyes on next chapter of Maharashtra row


Fadnavis kept low-profile

Contrary to Shinde, Fadnavis did not update his Twitter bio to reflect his new designation as Deputy CM. All it mentions him as is “Maharashtra’s sevak”.

Other than the meetings with Shinde Thursday evening at Mantralaya, where — according to government sources — Fadnavis took the lead in calling for the files on the Aarey Metro car shed and Jalyukt Shivar, the deputy CM also chaired a couple of other official meetings.

Fadnavis held a meeting with state government officials to discuss the agricultural condition in the state, including the sowing of kharif crops, the situation on water availability in different parts, and crop loan disbursement.

He also met with newly-appointed Mumbai Police Commissioner Vivek Phansalkar who reached the deputy chief minister’s residence.

On Friday afternoon, Fadnavis chaired another meeting on the issue of reservation for the Other Backward Classes, which the Supreme Court had scrapped in 2021. BJP leaders Pravin Darekar and Sanjay Kute, and Maharashtra Chief Secretary Manu Kumar Srivastava attended the meeting at Mantralaya.

(Edited by Tony Rai)


Also Read: Raj’s saffron shawls, Sena’s ‘imitation’ barbs: It’s Thackeray vs Thackeray in Maharashtra again


 

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