162 Sena-NCP-Cong MLAs swear allegiance

Deccan Chronicle.

Nation, Current Affairs

Maha is not Goa, warns Sharad Pawar; make way for us, Uddhav tells BJP; SC verdict today at 10.30 am.

MLAs taking oath in the presence of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, during a gathering to display their strength at a hotel in Mumbai on Monday. (Photo: Rajesh Jadhav)

Mumbai: The Supreme Court is set to pass an order on Tuesday on holding a crucial floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly to ascertain whether Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis enjoyed majority, as the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress put up a public show of strength to claim they have the numbers to form a new government.

The order will be passed at 10.30 am on Tuesday, the court said, giving the shaky 3-day-old Maha-rashtra government a breather in the intense battle for numbers between the rival camps.

Later in the evening, the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) carried out a joint ‘parade’ of all 162 MLAs supporting their alliance at a five-star hotel in Mumbai. With this, the three parties, which were beaten by the BJP in forming the government in Maharashtra, stepped up their efforts to prove that they have the majority to form the government.

Earlier in the day, they also submitted a letter signed by 162 MLAs to governor B.S. Koshyari. The letter said that the parties should be invited to form the government if the BJP fails to pass the floor test in the Assembly.

The ‘parade’ was held at Grand Hyatt where Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge were present.

All MLAs were asked to stand up and take a pledge under the Constitution that they would not fall prey to any inducements by the BJP.

Shiv Sena and Congress  MLAs were brought to the hotel where NCP legislators had been put up in air-conditioned buses at around 7 pm.

Apart from 51 NCP legislators, 56 Shiv Sena legislators and 44 Congress legislators, 11 MLAs from smaller parties and Independents also attended the event.

“I swear that under the leadership of Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Sonia Gandhi, I will be honest with my party. I won’t be lured by anything. I will not do anything which will benefit the BJP,” all MLAs pledged.

Speaking at the parade, Mr Thackeray said, “The BJP will have to make way for the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government in Maharashtra. The strength of our alliance cannot be captured on any camera lens. We have arrived; clear our way. We are not here for just five years. We are starting from Maharashtra, and then we will move ahead.”

NCP president Sharad Pawar said, “This is not Goa, this is Maharashtra. I will take personal responsibility to ensure no MLA loses membership for voting against the BJP.”

NCP president Sharad Pawar also addressed the MLAs where he assured them not to worry about Ajit Pawar. “There will not be any problem in proving our majority. The one who is suspended from the party cannot give any orders. On the day of the floor test, I will bring more than 162 MLAs. This is not Goa, this is Maharashtra. I will take personal responsibility to ensure no MLA loses Assembly membership for voting against the BJP,” he said.

Earlier in the morning, the joint delegation of three parties submitted a letter to the governor, staking their claim to form the government in the state. “Once Mr Fadnavis fails to prove his majority during the floor test, the Shiv Sena’s claim for government formation should be considered,” the letter read. NCP leader Jayant Patil alleged that the current government in Maharashtra has been formed on the basis of “false papers and documents”. “We are in a position to bring 162 MLAs before the Maharashtra governor at any given time,” he said.

He was accompanied by Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde and Vinayak Raut; Congress’ Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat; and Samajwadi Party chief Abu Azmi, among others.

Mr Shinde said that a letter of support from the 162 MLAs was submitted at Raj Bhavan.

However, the BJP ridiculed the efforts of the three parties to stake claim to form the government and parade their MLAs before the media.

BJP leader Ashish Shelar dubbed as “bogus” the letter submitted by the parties. “It is a bogus letter as technically Ajit Pawar is still the leader of the NCP’s legislature wing and he has extended support to the BJP. Congress has still not elected its legislative party leader and Shiv Sena has named its chief minister,” Mr Shelar said.

BJP leader and Union minister Raosaheb Danve also said the letter had no value. “The process of forming the BJP government is already on. Mr Fadnavis will prove his majority comfortably on the floor of the Assembly,” he said.

On the parade, Mr Shelar said, “An identification parade is carried out to identify criminals. Today, Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP paraded their legislators like criminals. They have not only insulted the legislators, but also the people who elected them as their representatives.”