Mumbai: Thirty months after BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar suddenly took oath as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively, in the morning of November 23, 2019, that incident continues to haunt and embarrass them.
Despite their best efforts to chase away the ghost of that clandestine swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan that morning, it keeps popping up frequently in the most unexpected ways — this time raked up by none other than Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray himself at his huge rally on May 14.
Replying to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s criticism, Thackeray declared that he allied with the Congress (and NCP) openly, not in an ‘early morning’ oath-taking ceremony of the 80-hour-long two-man regime — and his words pierced the target.
Willy-nilly, the CM also hinted at the ‘real secret’ behind why the Central probe agencies like the CBI, ED, NCB, I-T and the NIA keep hounding only the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party leaders for over two years.
The Shiv Sena President thundered saying if the BJP and MNS do not stop their vicious politics, hounding by the Central agencies, lodging false cases against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government leaders or their families, then “we won’t forgive or spare you”.
“Tomorrow, they will go after Dawood (Ibrahim Kaskar) but if he joins them, he will be made a cabinet minister… If that (2-man govt) ‘experiment’ had succeeded, then people like Anil Dashmukh or Nawab Malik would have been in your good books,” said Thackeray amid applause.
As the MVA government trudges to the mid-way mark in its five year term, BJP’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis continues to cry over the spilt milk, his ‘birth-right’ to power that he was unceremoniously deprived of after the 2019 Assembly elections.
The Ajit Pawar-Fadnavis duo has been lampooned and ridiculed since that indiscretion in Raj Bhavan, sans any trappings, but with the drapes drawn tightly to keep off peeping-toms prying at the political hustle enacted that dawn when the groggy state was engaged in its morning ablutions.
Once, displaying rare courage, Fadnavis confessed that “it should not have happened”, and again hammered Thackeray for ‘backstabbing BJP’ to grab power with the help of the Congress-NCP.
Even the much-pilloried Ajit Pawar, painted as a ‘black sheep’, feebly tried to justify the swearing-in event, saying it was not in the early morning as speculated, but “at 8 a.m.”, though later the NCP hugged him and rewarded him with the same post as Fadnavis did for 80 hours!
Wily Uncle and NCP President Sharad Pawar also never missed an opportunity to take a swipe at the dawn ceremony in his characteristic style.
In late-2020, when Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari published a coffee table book, Pawar wrote to him how everything was there in his coffee table book “except a particular swearing-in ceremony”.
Congress state President Nana Patole also took a potshot saying Ajit Pawar was to “explain” it at an appropriate time, but has nothing till date.
“So much water has flowed under the bridge… We 3 parties are now working together, the government is running well… Why do you keep raising it repeatedly,” an irked Ajit Pawar said of that 80-hour fling, Monday.
There have been heated exchanges inside the Maharashtra legislature and outside with the MVA leaders laughing and leering at that morning venture while livid unrepentant BJP leaders shielding it.