SC hearing against BJP coup today, parties scurry to secure MLAs

Ajit Pawar, Devendra Fadnavis
Ajit Pawar was among NCP ministers who were in-charge of the irrigation department at different times between 1999 and 2014 when the Congress and the NCP were part of the coalition government in Maharashtra. Photo: PTI

The weekend in Maharashtra started with a bang as BJP formed the government with rebel NCP leader Ajit Pawar in an overnight coup, prompting the Shiv Sena to move the Supreme Court against the move. The case will be heard by the top court at 11:30 am on Sunday (November 24).

In a dramatic twist, a day after NCP chief Sharad Pawar announced the finalisation of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition for government formation in the state, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar took oath as the chief minister and deputy chief minister about two hours after Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari revoked the President’s rule at 5:47 am.

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What followed was a murky political drama with the BJP struggling to garner majority support amid an alleged rift in the NCP on the other. Sharad Pawar, who distanced himself from his nephew’s decision to form an alliance with BJP, later sacked him as the party’s legislature leader.

“Ajit Pawar’s decision to support the BJP to form the Maharashtra Government is his personal decision and not that of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). We place on record that we do not support or endorse this decision of his,” tweeted Sharad Pawar soon after the oath taking ceremony, clarifying the party’s stand on the issue.

Subsequently, Sharad Pawar and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray addressed a joint press conference, during which the former claimed the NCP-Sena-Congress combine still has the numbers to form the government.

He further alleged that his nephew had a list signed by each MLA with him as he was chief of the legislative. “I assume he submitted the same list (to the Governor). I am not sure about this. We will discuss the issue with the governor,” said Pawar.

Thackeray termed the BJP’s move as a “furgical strike on democracy” by its former ally.

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In the evening, Sharad Pawar convened a meeting of the NCP MLAs, which was attended by 49 of the 54 legislators. During the meeting, the party passed a resolution that said the party’s state unit chief Jayant Patil will have all the constitutional rights till the next house leader is elected.

Later, the three parties filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the governor’s decision to let the BJP form the government.

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Sena in its petition said the Governor had acted in “a partisan manner” “at the behest of a political party in power at the Centre”.

Meanwhile, NCP MLAs who attended the oath-taking ceremony of Pawar, claimed they were unaware of the move. MLA Rajendra Shingane said, “Ajit Pawar called me in the morning and told he wants to meet and discuss something. When we reached there, we were taken with other MLAs to Raj Bhavan. Before we could understand, the oath ceremony was complete. I rushed to Pawar sahab and told him I am with him and the NCP.”

Further, a missing person’s complaint was also registered for NCP’s Shahapur MLA Daulat Daroda, who reportedly went missing after attending the oath ceremony at Raj Bhavan. Amidst a confusion over the exact number of MLAs attending the swearing-in ceremony, it was also reported that seven MLAs had returned to the party’s fold and pledged loyalty to Sharad Pawar.

Meanwhile, NCP MLAs were on Saturday moved to the Renaissance Hotel in the state capital out of fears that the BJP might attempt to poach them, reports said. The Congress too is likely to fly its MLAs to Jaipur on Sunday to ward off any poaching bid, a party leader said.

(With inputs from agencies)