Eknath Shinde is the Chief Minister of the Mahayuti, and he will continue to be so, clarified Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Monday as rumours of Ajit Pawar's escalation to CM post continued to make rounds in political corridors of the state.
While speaking to the media after a session of state assembly, Fadnavis tried to pacify ongoing discussions about the Chief Minister's post. Fadnavis also revealed that Ajit Pawar has known from the beginning that he would not become the CM.
In the past few days, discussions about a possible change in the Chief Minister of the state have been ongoing. Some believe that the BJP has allied with Ajit Pawar with the intention of sidelining CM Shinde, making Pawar the CM as part of the deal.
However, Fadnavis reacted to the rumours and said, "The Chief Minister's post could be of interest to any party, not just the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Shiv Sena's Chief Minister is in power now. The BJP might want its own Chief Minister, and the NCP's supporters might wish for Ajit Pawar to become the Chief Minister. There is nothing wrong with this perspective. However, it should be noted that there will not be any change in the Chief Minister's position. Eknath Shinde is the Chief Minister, and he will continue to be so."
"Ajit Pawar was made aware about this prior to the alliance," Fadnavis said.
Congress leader claims Ajit to become CM on Aug 10
Earlier in the day, former CM and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan had claimed that Ajit Pawar is set to take over as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra around August 10, replacing the current Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde. He also mentioned that a decision regarding the disqualification of CM Shinde and 15 other MLAs from Shiv Sena would be made around the same date.Chavan further claimed that the BJP is not enthusiastic about participating in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections under Shinde's leadership, citing his lack of influence beyond his home district of Thane."The BJP now has an alternative in Ajit Pawar," Chavan added.Chavan attributed this next move to the "use and throw" style of work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi."This is the fate of Shinde. The understanding of top BJP leadership indicates they want to make Ajit Pawar the chief minister and face elections," the former CM added.
Ajit Pawar MLA, supporters had sparked speculations
On Ajit Pawar's birthday, his supporters created a buzz with banners and TV ads hailing him as the next chief minister of the state while CM Shinde was in Delhi.
Similar posters were also put up outside Varsha, the official residence of CM Shinde in Mumbai.
In a cryptic tweet, NCP MLA Amol Mitkari has claimed that Deputy CM Ajit Pawar can take oath as the CM. In his tweet, Mitkari wrote, "I am Ajit Anantrao Pawar... taking oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra...! Very soon"
Stern statement by the BJP after Shinde's meeting with PM Modi
Amidst these unfolding events, Shinde flew to Delhi to meet with PM Modi. This marked his second meeting with Modi within a week and his fifth trip to Delhi in a month. While Shinde referred to it as a courtesy visit, party insiders suggested that discussions might have occurred concerning the pending disqualification petitions and the new ruling partner joining his government. Shinde and his party have been discontented ever since the Ajit-led NCP faction joined the government.
The public dispute between the two parties within the alliance, and the BJP's silence on the matter, had led many to speculate that Ajit Pawar could be the next CM of the state, especially as the Supreme Court presses assembly speaker Rahul Narvekar to address the disqualification notices issued to Shiv Sena MLAs. The open support of Ajit Pawar's MLAs for him to become the CM added substantial weight to the speculation.
However, deputy CM Fadnavis's statement on Monday has put a fullstop to the drama at least for now.