Mumbai, Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was on Sunday named Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, while Congress MLA Nana Patole was elected Speaker of the House.
Patole, 57, who was earlier in the day elected unopposed as the speaker after BJP’s Kisan Kathore withdrew from the fray, announced that Fadnavis is the new Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
“It is poetic justice that those who wanted non- existence of the opposition will now have to work as an effective opposition,” Patole said.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government passed the floor test in the state Assembly on Saturday.
Altogether 169 MLAs voted in favour of the motion of confidence after the BJP, which has 105 MLAs, staged a walkout before the head count began in the 288-member House.
For Fadnavis, 49, this is his fifth term as an MLA, while it is the fourth one for Patole.
NCP minister Jayant Patil appreciated the “spirit of understanding” shown by the BJP in withdrawing its candidate and ensuring that Patole was elected unopposed.
Speaking in the Assembly after Patole announced the appointment of Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray taunted the former CM over the latter’s impassioned pre-poll “Me punha yein” (I will return) assertion which had evoked many social media memes.
“I never said I will come back, but I came in this House,” Thackeray said. “I can assure this House and people of Maharashtra that I will not do anything at midnight. I will be working for the interests of the people,” he said.
Thackeray’s swipe was apparently about the early morning hush hush swearing-in of Fadnavis as CM on November 3, along with NCP leader Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister, after night-long dramatic political developments in Mumbai and Delhi.
Patil also targeted Fadnavis.
“He (Fadnavis) said he would return, but didn’t say where he will sit (in the House),” Patil said.
“Now he has returned and is occupying this top post (of Leader of Opposition) which is of the same level as CM post,” Patil said.
The NCP leader expressed confidence that Fadnavis won’t be part of any efforts to dislodge the Thackeray-led government of the Sena-NCP-Congress combine.
Responding to the barbs over his “”Me punha yein” remarks, Fadnavis said he forgot to announce a time table about his return (as CM).
“Mera paani utarte dekh kinare par ghar mat bana lena, mein samundar hoon, laut kar vapis aaoonga ((Thinking the tide has ebbed, don’t you dare build your house on the coast, for I am the sea, and I will come back),” he said, quoting a famous sher (couplet).
Thackeray said he wont call Fadnavis an ‘opposition leader’, but a ‘responsible leader’. “If you would have been good to us then, all this (BJP-Shiv Sena split) would have not happened,” he added.
“I have learnt a lot of things from Fadvanis and I will always be friends with him. I am still with the ideology of ‘Hindutva’ and won’t ever leave it. In the past five years, I never betrayed the (BJP-Sena) government,” he said.
The BJP could not come to power in Maharashtra despite emerging as the single largest party as “political arithmetic prevailed over merit, Fadnavis said in the Assembly after a resolution was moved to congratulate him on being appointed the leader of opposition.
The resolution was moved by Thackeray and supported by members of other parties.
“The BJP got people’s mandate as ours is the single largest party. Our strike rate was 70 per cent in the October 21 Assembly polls, but political arithmetic prevailed over merit. Those who got around 40 per cent marks in the election have formed the government,” Fadnavis said.
“We are accepting it as part of democracy,” he said.
“I did say ‘I will come back’, but forgot to give you the time-table for it. But I can assure you one thing, you need to wait for some time.”
“I not only announced several projects in the last five years, but started work on them as well. You never know, I may come back to inaugurate them,” he said.
Fadnavis also assured the House of functioning within the constitutional and legal framework.
“My opposition to the government will be on some of the principles, and without any personal agenda,” he said.
Governor B S Koshyari, in his address to the joint sitting of state legislature later, said the Shiv Sena-NCP- Congress combine’s government was concerned over unemployment.
He said the state government will enact a law to ensure 80 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for the “sons of the soil”.
Meanwhile, Sena MP Sanjay Raut in his weekly column ‘Rokhthok’ in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said Fadnavis’ haste to grab power and “childish comments” sank the BJP in the state and the latter became the opposition leader.
In a veiled attack on BJP leaders, he said Maharashtra did not bow down to the “mob-rule” like functioning of Delhi.