162 MLAs take pledge, say ‘will not get lured’
IN AN unprecedented action in Indian politics, the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress combine on Monday organised a public parade of their 162 supporting MLAs in a bid to disprove the claims of 170 legislators made by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally Ajit Pawar. The dramatic parade, at a hotel here, came barely 12 hours before the scheduled hearing in the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning on the parties’ challenge to the new Government sworn-in early Saturday morning with Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister and Ajit Pawar as his Deputy, creating a political upheaval in the State. Besides the enthusiastic 162 MLAs of the three ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ partners, top leaders of all three parties like Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, Praful Patel, Jayant Patil, Nawab Malik, Jitendra Awhad (all NCP), Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray, Eknath Shinde, and Sanjay Raut (all Shiv Sena), Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat and Mallikarjuna Kharge (Congress) and others were present. Abu Asim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party was also at the parade held at the banquet hall of the five star Grand Hyatt hotel in the western suburbs near the airport.
In a show of strength, all the MLAs pledged jointly in the presence of their senior party leaders, saying that they would not get “lured” and “will not do anything which will benefit BJP”. “I swear that under the leadership of Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Sonia Gandhi, I will be honest with my party. I won’t get lured by anything. I will not do anything which will benefit BJP,” all the MLAs present in the Hotel Grand Hyatt said while taking the pledge. This comes at a time when Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena have lodged their MLAs in respective hotels to keep their flock intact and to prevents any alleged attempts of ‘poaching’ or ‘horse-trading’.
However, the three parties have pooled their MLAs at Hotel Grand Hyatt where NCP MLAs are already staying, in a bid to show their strength. Several leaders addressed the gathering against a backdrop of large hoardings proclaiming “We Are 162” in different corners of the hall. The leaders assured the gathered legislators - many of them first-timers, from some of the remotest parts of the State - that the three parties are in a full majority and they would soon give a stable alliance Government in Maharashtra. “In many States, the BJP has Governments though it is not in a majority. The Centre is misusing its powers to grab power everywhere and Constitutional norms are being violated. But this is not Goa or Manipur, this is Maharashtra,” Sharad Pawar thundered.
Pawar told a gathering that he would personally ensure that none of them loses membership for voting against the BJP during floor test in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. He reiterated that his rebel nephew Ajit Pawar had “no powers or authority” to ally in the name of the NCP with the BJP and urged the gathering to preserve the unity seen on Monday. Thackeray warned that those who attempt to create obstacles in the way of the unity of the three parties would be taught a severe lesson. Patil and Thorat said that the three parties have already submitted a letter to the Governor earlier Monday staking claim to form the Government on the basis of its support of at least 162 legislators. Earlier in the day, NCP legislative party leader Jayant Patil along with Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan and others visited Raj Bhawan and gave a letter showing the strength of 162 MLAs to the officials at Raj Bhawan.