Ajit Pawar reached out with support, says Devendra Fadnavis; BJP regrets the choice
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis handed over his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Tuesday evening, a sharp contrast to the quiet oath ceremony held at Raj Bhavan less than 80 hours earlier that had marked the beginning of his short-lived second term.
Fadnavis, who had staked claim on the back of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) group leader Ajit Pawar’s support, stepped down hours after Pawar drove down to his official residence on Tuesday morning and handed over his resignation letter.
“Ajit Pawar met me in the morning today and said that for some reason, I cannot stay in this alliance, I have to resign. He has resigned. Because of his resignation, we do not have the majority,” Fadnavis told a crowded Press conference in state capital Mumbai. Fadnavis had convened the press conference, the first of his second term, to announce his resignation.
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Fadnavis was sworn-in as chief minister early on Saturday morning after the Centre revoked President’s rule in an overnight move and took Fadnavis’ claim that he had the numbers at its face value.
“We decided to form the government because we thought that the entire NCP group will back us,” Fadnavis explained.
Prodded about the unlikely alliance with Ajit Pawar who he attacked, Fadnavis said Ajit Pawar had initiated the discussion with the BJP to extend support to a Fadnavis-led government.
“The government was formed as Ajit Pawar gave a letter of support of all 54 of his party MLAs,” said Fadnavis.
The BJP’s official line, which was reflected in its letter to stake claim as well, was that the Nationalist Congress Party was its coalition partner and all the NCP’s 54 legislators would support Fadnavis. That this wasn’t the case became clear soon after when NCP boss Sharad Pawar removed his nephew Ajit Pawar from the party’s legislature party chief’s post.
Two senior BJP leaders, however, said the deal with Pawar was that he would manage the support of at least 34 NCP lawmakers. But it was becoming increasingly clear that NCP chief Sharad Pawar had managed to avoid a split in his party.
It was a mistake, the two BJP leaders said.
The first was to rely on Ajit Pawar and think that he could get the better than his uncle Sharad Pawar. ”Because our entire bid was dependent on him getting at least 27 MLAs. We could have got a maximum of 20 Independent MLAs but breaking away Congress or Shiv Sena MLAs within such a short time became impossible,” one of the two BJP leaders mentioned above said.
The BJP next rested its hopes for the government’s survival on certain technicalities that sought to use Pawar’s position as leader of his group to force his legislators to support Fadnavis or create confusion.
As a group leader Pawar could have issued a whip to party MLAs to vote as per his bidding. However, the NCP checkmated this move by removing Pawar, appointing state chief Jayant Patil in his place and informing this change to both the governor as well as the Speaker’s office.
The BJP also intended to first get the Speaker elected to conduct the floor test and opt for a secret ballot as mandated in the Maharashtra legislature’s rules to win the trust vote.