Uddhav Bal Thackeray was sworn-in as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra Thursday evening, bringing an end to days and weeks of political instability and stunning turnarounds in the state's politics. Clad in a saffron kurta, Uddhav Thackeray took oath at Mumbai's iconic Shivaji Park, a playground that is as synonymous with the Shiv Sena as it is with Indian cricket.
The 59-year-old Uddhav Thackeray is the first of his family to be the chief minister of Maharashtra. His father Bal Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena over five decades ago. Since then, the party has been an active player in Maharashtra politics and has even had two of its leaders become chief minister. But, a Thackeray has never become chief minister.
On Thursday, Uddhav Thackeray took the oath, propped up by the support of two unlikely allies — Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and the Indian Nationalist Congress. Six leaders — Sena’s Eknath Shinde and Subash Desai, NCP’s Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal and Congress’s Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut – took oath along with Uddhav.
The oath-taking ceremony took place at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park in front of thousands of people. In attendance were billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his family and outgoing chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray and other top leaders from the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance.
With Thursday’s oath-taking ceremony, Maharashtra can finally look at some political stability. The state has been in a crisis of sorts since the October 24 election results, which threw up a hung assembly.
The pre-poll alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena had the numbers to form the government. However, the two parties had a falling out with the Shiv Sena insisting that the chief minister’s post be shared between the two and the BJP being in no mood to let that happen.
Matters came to a head and the BJP-Shiv Sena’s blow hot, blow cold relationship ended as the two failed to arrive at an agreement. The crisis in Maharashtra was deepened and President’s rule was briefly imposed.
Then, the Sena began discussions with the NCP and the Congress and just when they looked set to form a government, former CM Devendra Fadnavis pulled a stunner, taking oath as chief minister at a surprise ceremony last Saturday. He was able to do so with the help of NCP leader and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, who had apparently revolted.
However, Fadnavis’s second term in office lasted just 80 days. The Supreme Court ordered an immediate floor test in Maharashtra and Ajit Pawar pulled a second about-turn, ditching Fadnavis and returning to the Pawar clan.
This forced Fadnavis to step down as well and paved the way for Thursday’s grand ceremony at Shivaji Park, Mumbai, where Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said his government will ensure concrete assistance to the state’s farmers and will work towards creating an atmosphere in which no one feels terrorised.
After being sworn in by Governor BS Koshyari at a ceremony at the sprawling Shivaji Park, the chief minister chaired the first meeting of the new cabinet at Sahyadri Guest House in south Mumbai.
Thackeray said the first decision of the cabinet was to approve Rs 20 crore in funds for the conservation of the Raigad Fort, which was the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Thackeray said he has asked officials, including the state’s chief secretary, to give him complete information on state and central schemes for farmers within the next two days. “Once I get all the details, I will take a decision accordingly,” he said.
“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 told reporters after the meeting.
“We want to ensure an atmosphere in the state wherein nobody will feel terrorised,” he said.
At the media briefing, Thackeray was accompanied by his cabinet colleagues Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut.
Patil, who took oath as a minister, said there will be a coordination committee of six ministers, including Thackeray, within the government. “There will be an external committee that will guide the government so as to achieve its goals,” he said.
Farmers form a key part of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance released earlier on Thursday, which said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government would waive off their loans.
The steps listed in the CMP to benefit farmers include immediate assistance to those suffering due to premature rains and floods, an immediate loan waiver, revision of the crop insurance scheme to ensure immediate compensation to farmers who have lost their crops.
Adequate steps will also be initiated to construct sustainable water supply systems in drought-affected areas, the document added.
The Raigad Fort, located about 25km from Mahad in the eponymous district, is of particular importance to the state. The earlier Maharashtra government, led by Devendra Fadnavis, had budgeted Rs 500 crore to upgrade the fort which is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Shivaji renovated this fort and made it his capital in 1674 AD.