Historic oath by M’rashtra MLAs the day before Constitution Day

Never have such pledges been taken in public to keep away BJP, referring to its extra constitutional methods and allurements it is known to offer.But M’rashtra is not Manipur or Goa,said Sharad Pawar

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Raman Swamy

It was a unique, collective oath, the like of which has never before been heard in history of Indian politics.

"I swear that under the leadership of Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Sonia Gandhi, I will be honest to my party. I won't get lured by anything. I will not do anything which will benefit BJP."

It was an oath taken ostensibly by the 162 newly elected members of the Maharashtra legislative assembly belonging to three political parties that had never before come together on one platform to speak in one voice. The MLAs from the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, along with some Independents, took the remarkable oath of allegiance to their party leadership by swearing to protect and uphold the Indian Constitution.

In an unprecedented show of unity and common resolve, the MLAs had assembled at Mumbai’s Hotel Grand Hyatt in a brief but well-choreographed ceremony that was more than just a reality show on live television. It was an act of defiance that could well go down in history as the first act of resistance against the forces of authoritarianism that have been taking control of the country in the last six years.

Even though Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were not mentioned by name, the message was clear.

The pledge did not hesitate to identify the BJP as the party which has been subverting democracy and resorting to underhand means to stifle the Opposition and capture control over established institutions.

Repeating the words as NCP leader Jitendra Awhad read out the pledge, the MLAs of the three partners of the newly-born Maha Vikas Aghadi chanted in unison: "I swear that under the leadership of Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Sonia Gandhi, I will be honest to my party. I won't get lured by anything. I will not do anything which will benefit BJP."

The reference to being “honest to my party” and being not “lured by anything” was imbued with meaning – a direct allusion to BJP’s Operation Lotus involving purchase of legislators with large sums of money.

It is an open secret that through the sinister use of money and muscle power, the electoral verdict has been manipulated to set up governments in several States in the recent past, particularly Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.

The assembled gathering, which also included some MPs and other leaders of the three partner parties, was addressed by Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Ashok Chavan.

The NCP president Sharad Pawar, who has emerged as the elder statesmen or Pitamah of new union, used the opportunity to educate his party MLAs who were less well-versed in legalities by telling them that his son Ajit Pawar had been removed from the post of leader of legislative party and therefore no longer has the power to issue any Whip. Hence, the MLAs need not fear losing their seats if they ignore any Whip issued by Ajit.

The NCP supremo told his legislators not to be swayed by the rumours that are being spread by the Fadnavis propaganda machine.

He assured them: "There will not be any problem in proving our majority. The one who is suspended from the party cannot give any orders. On the day of floor test, I will bring more than 162 MLAs. This is not Goa, this is Maharashtra." He added for greater emphasis and reassurance: "I will take personal responsibility to ensure no MLA loses Assembly membership for voting against BJP."

Sharad Pawar made it a point to explain even more clearly: "The BJP leaders at the Centre have illegally formed governments in many states without having majority including Karnataka, Goa, Manipur etc. The BJP has shown how power is misused. But here in Maharashtra, we will not allow such methods to work. Of a House of 288, we have 162 present here. Many others have also supported us but we have not yet taken their signatures on paper and so we won't disclose their names now. The day the Supreme Court gives the order for floor test, we are prepared for it. We will win by a comfortable majority."

Uddhav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief, gave a short but typically pungent speech: "We are not here for Satta-meva Jayate, we are here for Satya-meva Jayate. The strength of our alliance cannot be captured in any camera lens. We have arrived, clear our way."

Also characteristically, he issued a warning to his adversaries: "If you do not know what Shiv Sena is, try crossing our way, we will show you what Shiv Sena is. We are not here for just five years. We are starting from Maharashtra, and then we will move ahead."

Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan said: "We are more than 162. We have taken this decision to keep BJP away from power. We have submitted a letter with 162 signatures to the Raj Bhavan. We are in majority, we demand to be given the chance to form the government in Maharashtra".

Balasaheb Thorat, the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief, said: "The first meeting of the Maha Vikas Aghadi is happening here. This meeting is to tell the ones who have illegally grabbed power although they do not have the support of enough MLAs, to resign. We have given a letter of 162 signatures to Governor's office. After seeing our strength, Devendra Fadnavis should immediately resign. The Governor must be viewing this parade of strength on television and he should remove Fadnavis from office. This also evidence that will convince the Supreme Court judges”.

"Long live Maha Vikas Aghadi" slogans reverberated in the hall of the Hotel Grand Hyatt, the venue of the historic show of strength by the leaders and MLAs of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance.

After the ceremony, Jayant Patil of the NCP told newsmen: I am confident that in the floor test, all these 162 MLAs will vote against the present government of Maharashtra. Then, a new government will be formed.

Another NCP leader Nawab Malik said: "BJP still has a chance to save its honour. If the BJP comes down to violence, we will also respond to it (Thorh forh par agar uttar aai BJP toh hum bhi uska jawab denge)”.

He also urged rebel Ajit Pawar to realize his mistake and return to the party fold: “Ajitdada is a part of our party, he is part of the Pawar family. We are trying hard to persuade him to come back to NCP and to admit his mistake."

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