How Opposition parties in Maharashtra put on the ‘We are 162’ show
A day before the Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict on the political turmoil over government formation in Maharashtra, the three-party coalition, comprising Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, put up a grand show, ‘We are 162’, bringing 162 MLAs together on Monday evening.
The legislators of all three parties were brought in buses to Hotel Grand Hyatt, where 34 NCP legislators have been staying since Sunday evening. While Shiv Sena legislators (56) came from Hotel Lemon Tree in Saki Naka, another 12 NCP MLAs, who are staying at Hotel Sofitel, BKC, were brought in separate buses. The legislators were paraded before the media and also made to take an oath of the Constitution of India to be loyal to their alliance and not fall prey to any inducement by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They also pledged not to indulge in any anti-party activity and adhere to the instructions given by the leadership of the respective parties.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Congress in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge, along with other top state leaders from all three parties, were present at the event.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
NCP insiders said it was the idea of leader Jitendra Awhad, also the core committee member, who had earlier organised a Constitution Day walk in Mumbai, in which Sharad Pawar and several other leaders had participated. “Since Tuesday is Constitution Day, I thought we could organise something on Monday to convey the message that the MLAs of three parties would not let the principles of Constitution be destroyed in Maharashtra,” Awhad said.
He discussed it with Milind Narvekar, secretary to Uddhav Thackeray. Narvekar spoke to Thackeray and got his approval. Meanwhile, Awhad spoke to Pawar who supported it. Once both the top leaders agreed to the plan, state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat too was called for his opinion and he agreed to come on board. The idea was discussed around 11.30am and within a few hours the organisers made it reality.
“The original plan was to conduct it at Chaityabhoomi, Dadar, but the NCP supremo said it would not be feasible. We want to show the state and judiciary that we are stating facts,” said an NCP leader.
NCP chief Pawar used the occasion to counter the BJP’s argument that Ajit Pawar was the group leader of the NCP in legislature and had the authority to issue a whip to the party legislators. “I assure you that you will not be disqualified and I take personal responsibility for it. I have taken written opinion from former senior officers who have worked in Parliament and in the Maharashtra Legislature that once a leader is removed from the position (legislative party leader), he cannot issue a whip,” said Pawar. There are reports that Ajit Pawar may issue a whip asking NCP legislators to vote for the BJP and if not followed, the legislators may get disqualified.
Pawar also invoked Maharashtra pride. “This is Maharashtra, we won’t tolerate anything here. We can teach a lesson [to the BJP],” he said.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray warned the BJP not to indulge in misadventure against their three-party coalition. “In the past 30 years, you have only seen our friendship. If you create more problems, we will show our might,” Thackeray said.
The BJP was quick to react. “The show put up by the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena is childish. They put an identification parade of their elected legislators akin to criminals. This is not just their insult, but also an insult to the mandate. They can pretend they have the support of 162 MLAs, but will they be able to show support of 145 legislators on the floor during the trust vote,’’ asked BJP leader Ashish Shelar.