Amid the raging disqualification tussle between the rival Shiv Sena groups, Maharashtra Deputy CM and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis exuded confidence that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde would not be disqualified, remarking that even if that happened in the unlikely event, then Mr. Shinde would be elected as an MLC and retain the top post.
Ever since rebel Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar joined the ruling Shinde-Fadnavis government on July 2 this year, there has been persistent speculation that Mr. Pawar would become the next CM in the event that the Shinde-led Shiv Sena MLAs were disqualified as an outcome of the plea filed by the rival Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena (UBT) which has challenged the legality of the Shinde-BJP government following Mr. Shinde’s revolt last year which vertically split the Shiv Sena.
Stressing again that Mr. Shinde would continue to remain as Maharashtra’s CM come what may, Mr. Fadnavis, speaking to a vernacular channel, said: “To begin with, Mr. Shinde will not get disqualified. Even in the unlikely event that does happen, we will get him elected to the Legislative Council and he will retain the CM’s post.”
Even before Ajit Pawar joined the BJP, speculation was rife that Mr. Shinde would eventually face disqualification and that Mr. Pawar would be inducted into the ruling government – speculation which has only increased in intensity after Ajit Pawar actually joined the BJP-Shinde government in July this year.
Opposition leaders like senior Congressman and former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan have opined that Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was indeed waiting in the wings to be the next Chief Minister of the State as the BJP could not face the electorate in the 2024 Lok Sabha election with Mr. Shinde and his Sena faction.
The Congress leader had opined that as Mr. Shinde had not been able to extend his influence beyond his stronghold Thane, the BJP high command was thinking that the party stood a far better chance in the elections next year with Ajit Pawar as CM.
However, all speculation about Ajit Pawar replacing Eknath Shinde have been consistently refuted by Mr. Fadnavis, who has maintained all along that the latter would remain in the CM’s post.