MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: In another dramatic twist to the month-long Maharashtra political saga, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday resigned as chief minister ahead of the floor test, admitting he does not have the numbers shortly after his deputy and NCP leader Ajit Pawar quit.
With Fadnavis, who was sworn in by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in a hush-hush ceremony just last Saturday for a second term after stunning midnight developments where Ajit Pawar revolted and propped up the government, the Shiv Sena said its chief Uddhav Thackeray will be the new chief minister heading a post-poll alliance. Besides the Sena, the alliance comprises the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) and the Congress.
Ajit Pawar had supported BJP as leader of the 54-member NCP legislature party and with his resignation earlier in the day, the government has lost majority, said Fadnavis, hours after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in the state Assembly on Wednesday for the BJP leader to prove his majority, saying there is a "possibility of horse trading" in case of a delay.
"We don't have majority after Ajit Pawar's resignation as deputy chief minister," Fadnavis told a crowded press conference in Mumbai on a day of fast paced political and legal developments.
The top court also directed that the voting in the Assembly will not be on the basis of secret ballot and the entire proceedings will have to be telecast live.
It also made it absolutely clear that a Pro-tem Speaker shall be appointed to administer the oath to the newly elected members of the House on Wednesday itself by 5:00 PM to pave the way for the floor test.
"In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so," said a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
The BJP's efforts to cobble a majority hoping that Ajit Pawar will be able to enlist the support of a majority of the MLAs of the NCP came a cropper after almost all the 54 legislators stood by his uncle and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
'Maha Vikas Aghadi', the 3-party combine, paraded 162 MLAs in an unprecedented show of strength at a luxury hotel in Mumbai on Monday night indicating that the numbers were stacked heavily against the BJP.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP is the single-largest party with 105 MLAs, followed by the Shiv Sena (56), the NCP (54) and the Congress (44).
Fadnavis said the BJP will become the voice of the people as a responsible opposition. "We won't indulge in horse-trading," he added.
Asked if he thought Ajit Pawar extending support to the BJP was a strategy of Sharad Pawar, Fadnavis said, "Sharad Pawar will be able to comment on this issue".
"Ajit Pawar told me he was quitting due to personal reasons," Fadnavis said.
Maharashtra Assembly poll mandate was more for the BJP than the Shiv Sena, he added.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told reporters after a meeting of the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance leaders that Uddhav Thackeray will be the chief minister for 5 years.
Another Sena leader Eknath Shinde claimed that during the floor test, the 'Maha Vikas Aghadi' will have the support of "170 legislators".
Most of the issues among the Sena, NCP and Congress have been sorted out, a senior NCP leader said on the condition of anonymity.
"I don't think the three parties would need any more time to stake claim for government formation," he said.
A senior official from Vidhan Bhavan said that with Fadnavis announcing his decision to quit, there was no need to hold a floor test in the Assembly on Wednesday.
"Instead, the governor may invite the second largest party - Shiv Sena - to stake claim for government formation," he said.
The governor will require a joint statement from the Sena, NCP and Congress along with signatures of their MLAs.
The Sena's 56 MLAs along with the NCP and Congress' 54 and 44 legislators, respectively, would take the combine's tally to 154. The majority mark is 145.