Mumbai, Dec 4:
Burying the bitterness of the recent past, the opposition Shiv Sena has decided to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here Thursday.
The state cabinet will be expanded Friday to include 10 Shiv Sena ministers, he said.
This is the first instance in Maharashtra where an opposition party has joined the ruling party in an alliance government.
According to the new arrangement, the Shiv Sena will get five berths of cabinet ministers and seven of ministers of state, Fadnavis said at a joint media address by top leaders of the two parties.
Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai said the two parties decided to come together again and run a stable government in the state as per the mandate of the people.
With this, the alliance will command a strength of 184 in the 287-member assembly (one BJP legislator died soon after the poll results were announced in October). The BJP has a strength of 121 legislators and the Shiv Sena 63.
The two parties – allies for 25 years – split Sep 25 after a bitter spat and fought the assembly elections separately.
“The people voted against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (alliance). Our decision has been taken respecting the public sentiments in this context, and we have decided to form the alliance government,” Fadnavis said, putting the lid on over two months of speculation whether the two parties would unite.
Desai added: “We will strive to provide a good government and are confident that we will live up to the people’s mandate.”
Hinting at who would be the “big brother”, Fadnavis reiterated that there will be no post of deputy chief minister in his government, scotching all Shiv Sena hopes of bagging the post.
In the first BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government in 1995-99, the Sena held the post of chief minister and the BJP had the deputy chief minister’s post.
The names of all the ministers – from both parties – will be finalised Thursday evening, and the swearing-in ceremony will be held Friday.
This will bring relief to the government as it readies for its first full-fledged winter session of the legislature that starts Monday in Nagpur, the state’s second capital.
According to indications, the 10-member Fadnavis government will be expanded to include 10 Shiv Sena ministers and another 8-10 from the BJP.
A decision on including other smaller alliance partners in the cabinet would be taken in due course, Fadnavis said.
“Despite all ups and downs, the two parties remained together for the past 25 years. Owing to certain reasons, we had drifted (apart). Now, we are allies again as it is based on common principles and ideology,” the chief minister said.
Fadnavis said workers and legislators of both parties wanted to be in the government and he spoke to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who responded positively.
Fadnavis also announced that the two parties will contest together all future elections in panchayats, municipal councils and corporations, indicating that the re-alliance was for a long term.
Political analysts say the Shiv Sena’s decision was prompted largely by apprehensions that the party could split if it continued in the opposition, with the splinter group joining the BJP.
Thursday’s development took place after over two months of aggressive positions by leaders from both sides even as back-channel talks continued quietly.