NDTV Exclusive: "Never Demanded Chief Minister's Post," Says Eknath Shinde

The Eknath Shinde government will have to prove its majority in the assembly today. The test, though, is expected to be a formality.

Eknath Shinde added that the BJP showed a "big heart" by offering the Chief Minister's post to him.

Mumbai:

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who took power last week with the BJP's support after leading a successful coup in the Shiv Sena against former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, stressed that his rebellion was over ideological differences with alliance partners in the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government. "I didn't take this decision to become Chief Minister," the 58-year-old told NDTV in an exclusive interview ahead of a test of majority that is mostly a formality.

"I never demanded the Chief Minister's post. It was a matter of ideology, of Balasaheb (Thackeray's) Hindutva. Party workers were very upset with the Maha Vikas Aghadi. MLAs were upset too. They couldn't do any development work because of the internal problems in coalition," Mr Shinde said. The BJP, he added, showed its "big heart" by offering the Chief Minister's post to him.

"Everyone thought that the BJP is supporting us to come to power in the state. People were also anticipating that they will take the Chief Minister post. Although they had 115 MLAs, they offered the top post to us despite only 50 MLAs backing us," he said.

Mr Shinde also cleared the air on Devendra Fadnavis accepting the post of Deputy Chief Minister after saying he wouldn't be part of the government.

"I spoke to him and he said that it was his duty to follow party order as the party has helped him grow from an ordinary worker to a tall leader, gave him the highest post (of Chief Minister)," he said.

On Sunday, the Shinde camp won its first battle against Team Thackerey as its candidate secured a massive win in the election for the Speaker post.

"We have won the Speaker's election today with good votes. We have 166 votes, those in front have 107. The difference that is there is huge. This difference will increase day by day and we have shown this by winning the first battle of the Speaker," he said.

The election for the post of Assembly Speaker is crucial in view of the recent turn of events in the state.

"The Speaker of the assembly has appointed me as the leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party. We have the majority. Ajay Choudhary and Sunil Prabhu (both part of Uddhav Thackeray faction) do not have majority. Today we have filed a petiton to the Speaker. Legally those who have the majority can only be selected," he said.

During the interview, Mr Shinde also justified his decision to reverse the Uddhav Thackeray government's decision on Metro car shed project in Aarey - - a move that has left Mr Thackeray "very upset".

"We will take forward all the projects that are pending and people should get the benefit of these projects as soon as possible. It will be the responsibility of this government," he said.

He also said that the killing of a chemist in Amravati over post supporting suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma's remark on Prophet  Muhammad was "worrying".

Umesh Kolhe, 54, was attacked and killed by two men on a motorcycle on his way back from work on June 21. The murder occurred a week before a similar killing in Udaipur.

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