Congress gives up DCM's post, settles for Speaker's

Updated: Nov 28, 2019, 07:31 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

There will be just one deputy chief minister (NCP's) and the Sena will have a chief minister; Ajit Pawar might not take oath today

Sule hugs cousin Ajit Pawar at Vidhan Bhavan on Wednesday. Pics/Suresh Karkera
Sule hugs cousin Ajit Pawar at Vidhan Bhavan on Wednesday. Pics/Suresh Karkera

While a large section of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) wants Ajit Pawar - who re-signed with the parent party after joining a short-lived Devendra Fadnavis government - to hold a prime position in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVS) government, a tri-partite arrangement has decided that there will be just one deputy chief minister (DCM) (NCP's) while the Congress would get the Assembly Speaker's post and the Sena would have a chief minister (CM) for five years.

Insiders said the Congress has given up its claim to get the DCM's post in exchange for the coveted Speaker's post. The NCP will get the deputy speaker's post. CM candidate Uddhav Thackeray is to be sworn in on Thursday evening in a grand function at Shivaji Park.

Ajit may not take oath
NCP leader Praful Patel said after the three-party meeting, that at least two members each from all partners would take oath with Uddhav. There will be seven members, including the CM, taking the oath of office. But he did not say whether Ajit Pawar or Jayant Patil who replaced the former as the leader of the legislative party leader, would be made DCM.

Sule welcomes Aaditya Thackeray at Vidhan Bhavan
Sule welcomes Aaditya Thackeray at Vidhan Bhavan

But sources said Patil would be the NCP's choice for the DCM's post. Ajit may not take oath today and may come back later, as he wants to stay away from positions of power for some time. However, sources said the distribution of portfolios between a 43-member council of ministers hasn't been decided yet. The Congress wanted the coveted DCM post while the NCP too had demanded it. But the parties later settled for the speaker's post and a DCM.

The Congress has settled a tussle for the DCM's post within the party. Not all senior leaders would want the Speaker's post, which is generally seen as a retirement package, but it has emerged as very important in view of the 105-member BJP opposition that will be led by ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis.

Leaders shun media
The MVS took over four hours to discuss matters on Wednesday evening, but the leaders went home without cracking a concrete deal. They evaded media. Some Congress leaders exited from the back doors of the venue, YB Chavan Centre at Nariman Point. Earlier in the day a three-party meeting was also held at Sharad Pawar's residence.

State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, who was in the reckoning for the DCM's post, said nothing was decided and the details would be made available Thursday. "We will decide everything tonight (Wednesday)," he said.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress' national general secretary, said there were some things that needed to be sorted out. His senior Congress colleague Ahmed Patel said that the party's national president, Sonia Gandhi, would skip Uddhav's swearing-in but the Sena president's son, Aaditya flew to New Delhi, to invite senior leaders across parties, including the Gandhi family. Sena leaders too did not say anything. NCP leaders said the talks were positive. But some leaders like Ajit and Sharad Pawar were holed up at the venue.

Holding fast to Speaker's post
Sources said the Speaker's post remained a bone of contention. The same issue was debated fiercely the night before Ajit had switched over to the BJP. "NCP wants the Speaker's post but the Congress doesn't want to give it up because the NCP already has the upper house's Chairman," a Congress leader said.

In a parallel drama, a large section of Ajit's supporters has been demanding the DCM's position for him. The MLAs feel that since he returned, he should be rewarded. However, there was no clarity over this. The NCP elected Jayant Patil as its legislative party leader after Ajit's overnight switch last Saturday. Patil also is a frontrunner for the DCM's post.

Addressing a media conference, Patel said at least two members each from the three parties would take oath. The expansion would be held after the trust vote is passed before December 3. He said the partners would meet again today.

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