Maharashtra alliance message: ‘We are 162’
The NCP, Shiv Sena and the Congress gathered their MLAs at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai on Monday evening and asserted that “We are 162”.
The show of strength was intended at calling out the BJP’s claim of having sufficient numbers to cross the majority mark of 145 in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly to merit Saturday’s hurried swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy.
The evening gathering at the hotel took place in the presence of the senior leaders of all three parties, including Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, putting both face and muscle to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in expectation of a floor test in the coming days.
The Sangh ecosystem was quick to point out there was no headcount, which is a fact. There was no “parade” but the MLAs came in ones and twos, took their seats in a large hall and stood up to take an oath against falling prey to inducements.
The objective of the tri-party alliance was not to prove its majority, which in any case cannot be done in a hotel, but to tell the country that the three parties have been ready for long to face a floor test whereas the BJP has been seeking more time.
The show of strength is also being seen as a message to the voters that their elected members were with the alliance even two days after the overnight operation that installed Fadnavis as chief minister. If the BJP does accomplish a whispered brea through and manage mass defections on the floor when the test takes place, it will be further proof that the time gained since Saturday morning has been put to effective use.
Congress leaders in Delhi disclosed in private that some of their legislators had been approached by the BJP. However, all three parties insisted that their flock is together and would stay united.
The decision to assemble the MLAs was taken on Monday afternoon in a bid to command the optics on a day the Supreme Court reserved its order on directing an immediate floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly.
In the hotel, the MLAs held out their hands and took the pledge: “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 the BJP.”
Addressing the MLAs, Uddhav said: “Our fight is not just for power, our fight is for Satyamev Jayate. The more you try to break us, the more we will unite.”
Sharad asserted that his nephew Ajit has no right to issue a whip.
Further, the warhorse who has become the fulcrum of the alliance, said: “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 the floor test, I will bring more than 162 MLAs. This is not Goa, this is Maharashtra.”
Sources said that all three parties had already sent the necessary letters to the Maharashtra Assembly secretary-general, listing their respective MLAs and their designated whips.
While the Supreme Court’s verdict is awaited, the three parties are conscious of the kind of pulls and pressures being used by potential poachers.
Prior to the floor test, the senior-most member of the House is usually appointed as pro-tem Speaker to conduct the oath-taking exercise, a time-consuming exercise as the pledge is taken individually by each MLA and not collectively.