Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who stunned the NCP by engineering an alliance and a midnight coup with the BJP which saw Devendra Fadnavis return to power, has reportedly resigned just a day before the floor test ordered by the Supreme Court, local media reports said. Fadnavis is slated to address the media at 3.30 pm when the announcement is likely to be made official. The development comes as a setback to the BJP, which was confident of winning the floor test tomorrow.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ordered that the Maharashtra floor test be held within 24 hours tomorrow which will be conducted through the open ballot and will be telecast live. The court said the floor test will be conducted by the protem speaker after the members take an oath by 5 pm tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena today said it plans to move the Supreme Court against the closure of irrigation scam cases, saying the Devendra Fadnavis government could not take major policy decisions till the floor test was conducted. According to the joint plea by Sena, NCP and Congress, the parties have termed the decision to close cases against Ajit Pawar illegal. Seeking a stay on ACB’s move to close cases, the plea seeks that the court restrains Fadnavis from taking any such decision till the floor test is done. The application will be mentioned after the SC’s order at 10.30 am today.
Earlier, stung by the rebellion of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s nephew, the Shiv Sena today hit out at Ajit Pawar for capitalizing on his uncle’s hard work and said if he had the guts, he should have started his party. In an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party claimed that the chief whip and leader of legislative party posts were two different positions and according to a senior NCP leader, the party had, until two days ago, not appointed a chief whip.
The party also hit out at its erstwhile ally BJP, asking that if Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had the majority, “why did he need to appoint four devils for ‘Operation Lotus’?” The Sena added, “Nitin Gadkari has compared this to cricket. Let us also tell him that let there be match-fixing but these gamblers won’t be able to defeat ‘Satyamev jayate’. When the majority will be proved, the 105 martyrs of Maharashtra will be happy. We want to tell the people of Maharashtra, don’t worry.”
According to NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde, 162 MLAs of the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ comprising the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress assembled for a joint ‘parade’ at a luxury hotel in suburban Mumbai and took an oath not to fall prey to any inducements by the BJP. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Ashok Chavan were among others present.
BJP MLA Ashish Shelar responded to the show of strength by the 3-party alliance on Monday night, saying a majority in the Assembly cannot be proved by such parades. The dramatic turn of events that led to the return of BJP’s Fadnavis as chief minister on Saturday propped up by NCP’s Ajit Pawar after the latter’s revolt against the Sharad Pawar-led party also echoed in Parliament with the Congress and other opposition members creating a ruckus. Ajit Pawar, the nephew of Sharad Pawar, was made the deputy chief minister.
Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned several hours ahead of schedule in the wake of unrelenting protests by the opposition members.