Uddhav holds maiden cabinet meet, sanctions ₹20 cr for Shivaji’s legacy

Newly elected Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray along with ministers addresses media at Sahyadri Guest House after the first cabinet meeting, in Mumbai on Thursday. Photo: PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday (November 28) night chaired the maiden meeting of his cabinet which sanctioned ₹20 crore for conservation of the Raigad Fort as he promised concrete assistance for farmers after reviewing existing schemes instead of any piecemeal aid.

Thackeray, sworn in as the chief minister in Mumbai hours earlier, chaired the first meeting of his cabinet at Sahyadri Guest House in south Mumbai. He said the first decision of the cabinet was to approve a sum of ₹20 crore for conserving the Raigad Fort, which was the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century.

Addressing his first press conference after taking over as chief minister, Thackeray said he has asked the chief secretary to review all existing government schemes for farmers to understand how much they have actually helped the community.

“We can paint a better picture if we know the reality. We have sought inputs. Farmers have not got anything, but only assurances. We want to provide concrete help to farmers,” he said after the meeting. “I have asked the chief secretary to provide a realistic picture about the number of schemes aimed at helping farmers and how much they have benefited them. “Once I get the real picture, we will be able to come up with solution,” Thackeray said.

The CM said he is not looking at piecemeal approach to resolve issues related to cultivators, who suffered crop losses in unseasonal rains in October. “I dont want to provide any negligible assistance but whatever we will do, it will be a grand and satisfactory provision for farmers,” Thackeray said. “So far farmers have been given false promises and they have not benefited actually. I have seen farmers were given certificates of loan waiver but they did not benefit in reality,” he said, said hitting out at the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis government which had announced a mega farm loan waiver in June 2017.

“Even the crop insurance scheme has failed to address farmer issues. The Sena has taken their issues to the streets. We want to provide some meaningful help to farmers,” said Thackeray, who is also president of the Sena, a key member of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the governing coalition also comprising the Congress and the NCP.

“We want to ensure an atmosphere in the state wherein nobody will feel terrorised,” he said.

Maharashtra gets 2nd chief minister in 6 days

Earlier in the day, the Sena supremo was sworn in in the top post along with two ministers from each of the three parties of the alliance — Sena, NCP and Congress.

The 59-year-old Thackeray is the third Sena leader and first from the Thackeray family to occupy the top post. His father, Bal Thackeray, wielded the ‘remote control’ over the first Sena-BJP government during 1995-99 but never assumed a position in the government.

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Governor BS Koshyari administered oath to the saffron-clad Thackeray and six ministers at the sprawling Shivaji Park here, venue of the Sena’s Dussehra rallies. This comes over a month after results of the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections were declared on October 24.

The six who took oath as ministers were Sena’s Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai, NCP’s Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal, and Congress’s Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut. NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who did not take oath on Thursday, is likely to take over as the deputy chief minister, party sources say.

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Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena
Newly sworn-in Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his MLA-son Aaditya Thackeray acknowledge their supporters, at Shivaji Park in Mumbai | PTI Photo

Those present at the ceremony included NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and DMK leader MK Stalin.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was among those invited but she wasn’t present. She sent congratulatory messages to Uddhav and MPCC chief Balasaheb Thorat. “Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress have come together under quite extraordinary circumstances at a time when the country faces unprecedented threats from the BJP,” Gandhi’s letter said.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Uddhav Thackeray on taking oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra. “I am confident he will work diligently for the bright future of Maharashtra,” Modi tweeted.

Former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, his cousin and MP Supriya Sule, Uddhav’s wife Rashmi, his MLA-son Aaditya, Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita and son Anant were also present at the ceremony.

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The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress formed the government after the Thackeray-led party fell out with pre-poll ally BJP over sharing the chief ministerial post. The BJP emerged as the single largest party winning 105 seats. The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress won 56, 54 and 44 seats respectively in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.

Devendra Fadnavis, Mukesh Ambani
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis greets industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his wife during the swearing-in ceremony at Shivaji Park | PTI Photo

Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony came after days of dramatic political developments, which included a three-day government formed by BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis with unexpected support from NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who has since returned to the Sharad Pawar-led party fold.

There was speculation that Ajit Pawar would be sworn in as deputy chief minister on Thursday but only two ministers from the NCP took oath at the ceremony. A special session of the 14th state Assembly was held here on Wednesday where oath was administered to 285 newly-elected members by pro tem Speaker Kalidas Kolambkar.

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Uddhav Thackeray is the 18th CM of Maharashtra. However, considering the number of terms, he will be the 29th chief minister of the state. An ace photographer, the otherwise affable, mild-mannered politician, displayed combative traits of his father in dealing with the BJP on the demand for rotational chief ministership just after Assembly poll results were announced.

Shiv Sena Bhawan
An iluminated view of Shiv Sena Bhawan as Uddhav Thackeray takes oath of Maharashtra chief minister | PTI Photo

In rallies, Uddhav had repeatedly voiced his resolve to fulfill the dream of his father to make a Shiv Sainik the chief minister, and ended up donning the mantle himself.

Hours before the swearing-in ceremony, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state would waive farmers’ loans and ensure 80% quota in jobs to the local youth.

NCP leaders Jayant Patil and Nawab Malik and Sena leader Eknath Shinde announced details of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the alliance. Sena’s most discussed promise during the Assembly poll campaign — a full meal at ₹10 — also figures in the CMP.

(With inputs from agencies)