The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress gathered their MLAs at a five-star hotel in Mumbai this evening for a show of strength and administered a “oath of allegiance” hours after the three parties staked claim to power. “I will not fall prey to any offer. I will not help the BJP in anyway. I will not indulge in any anti-party activities,” the MLAs repeated, with a palm-out salute as they pledged not to betray their parties.
“We are 162” posters had been put up in the conference hall where the MLAs gathered, a giant image of the Constitution of India also in the backdrop. NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule, and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray, were present as the MLAs chatted animatedly, took selfies, flashed victory signs and worked the room.
A “wide-angle camera” would be needed to capture the gathering, said Uddhav Thackeray as he addressed the gathering. “We believe in Satyameva Jayate. We dare anyone to try and break us,” said the Shiv Sena chief.
Sharad Pawar reiterated that all NCP MLAs were with him. “162 MLAs are here, we have a majority,” he said.
The Sena’s Sanjay Raut had “invited” Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to attend the MLAs’ parade. “We are all one and together , watch our 162 together for the first time at grand Hyatt at 7 pm , come and watch yourself, Maharashtra Governor (sic),” Mr Raut had tweeted.
The three-party alliance, which calls itself the “Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi”, approached the Governor three days after the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy, in an early morning oath ceremony that left everyone in shock.
Ajit Pawar, the nephew of Sharad Pawar, had attended a meeting hours before on Friday evening, when the three parties had declared that they would form an alliance headed by Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister.
“Ajit Pawar tried to project that he had my blessings but he did this on his own. He though NCP MLAs would leave with him but they didn’t. This is Maharashtra, not Goa and we know how to teach a lesson to those playing with fire, especially with the Sena on our side. You don’t get power by playing these games here,” said Pawar senior to applause and cheers from the MLAs’ gathering.
The BJP rejected the show of strength as party leader Ashish Shelar said, “Identification parade is done for criminal suspects… it is no floor test. It is a failed attempt to boost self-confidence. BJP and Ajit Pawar will ensure photo finish. Were even 145 MLAs present?”
The Sena, NCP and Congress have petitioned the Supreme Court against the Governor’s invite to the BJP and have asked for a trust vote at the earliest. The court will announce its decision tomorrow.
Fearing attempts to split their ranks, the parties have moved their flock to various hotels to prepare for the test of strength that they say the BJP will definitely lose. Any party needs 145 MLAs for a majority in the state assembly.
The Shiv Sena has submitted to the Governor signatures of 63 MLAs (including independents), the Congress 44 and the NCP 51 (of 54). The Samajwadi Party has submitted the signatures of two members.
In the Supreme Court, the Sena-NCP-Congress claimed the support of 154 MLAs, a few short of the number of signatures given to the Governor. The NCP says the signatures are missing because lawmakers were on their way back at the time.
The BJP, which won 105 seats in the 288-member assembly, told the court it has the support of 170 MLAs, including all 54 of the NCP.
Sharad Pawar says 53 NCP MLAs are with the party. Three NCP signatures missing from the letter submitted to the Governor this morning are those of Ajit Pawar, Anna Bansod and Narhari Zhirwal.
No party won a majority in last month’s Maharashtra polls. Pre-polls allies BJP and Sena won a majority together, but split over the Sena’s demand for rotational chief ministership.
The Sena then opened talks with ideological rivals NCP and Congress, but just as the alliance crystallised and they declared a chief ministerial candidate, the BJP appeared to have outmanoeuvred them.