Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis handed over his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at a quick meeting on Friday evening, 15 days after the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine secured a clear majority in last month’s state elections.
Fadnavis, the BJP’s presumptive chief minister, however, could not stake claim after bitter tussle with its alliance partner led by Uddhav Thackeray demanded a written assurance that a Sena nominee would be given the chance to be chief minister after 30 months.
BJP leaders had been dismissive of the Sena’s demand and saw it more as a negotiating tactic to get a larger chunk of cabinet berths. But it was after Fadnavis declared that there had no pact between the two allies to share the chief minister’s post that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena dug in his heels.
Fadnavis has been asked to continue as an acting chief minister by the governor until a new government is formed or an alternative arrangement is announced.
The chief minister appeared in front of television cameras to announce his resignation after handing over the formal letter to the governor. It was the first time that he was appearing before the cameras to talk about his party’s efforts to form the government.
Fadnavis started with a thank you note to his party, its leaders and even the BJP’s feuding ally, the Shiv Sena, for the opportunity to serve the people of Maharashtra. Once this was out of the way, he launched a blistering attack on the Shiv Sena and its leaders.
“I am hurt that despite the mandate, we could not form the government,” he told reporters. The chief minister also attempted to correct the perception that the BJP hadn’t reached out to Sena. Fadnavis said he tried. “But Uddhavji did not take my calls,” he said.
“They stopped talking to us. It’s possible that they were upset and wanted some time to discuss things with us. But, it is unfortunate that at the same time, Sena was talking to Congress and NCP, often twice or thrice in a day,” Fadnavis said.
The chief minister asserted that he was not part of any discussion where the concept of a rotational chief minister was decided or discussed. If there was something like this between BJP boss Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray, “I am not aware about it.”
It is not clear what Raj Bhavan considers its options. There is a view that he may invite the second largest party Shiv Sena with 56 legislators to stake claim. The Sena also has the support of eight more lawmakers, Independents including rebels.
Around the time that Fadnavis was at Raj Bhavan, Sena MP Sanjay Raut headed to meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. Sena has not yet indicated whether it plans to stake claim to form the government.
If Sena decides to form the government with NCP, it will have to convince the governor that it has the necessary backing for the form the government. It may have to submit a list of 145 MLAs to the governor.
The governor may also directly recommend President’s rule if he is convinced that no other party has the majority.