The Congress, the NCP and the Shiv Sena will defeat the BJP in a trust vote, the Congress's Ahmed Patel declared today, hours after the BJP returned to power in Maharashtra. In a harshly-worded statement, Mr Patel also accused the BJP of underhanded tactics to regain power and said the Congress would mount a legal challenge.
"We smell something foul in the manner in which things were done this morning. No one had a clue... only 3-4 media persons were invited," Mr Patel said, describing the BJP's move as "the pits".
A dramatic overnight twist in Maharashtra saw BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis sworn in as Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who is party chief Sharad Pawar's nephew, become Deputy Chief Minister.
The ceremony, which took place at around 8 am, came merely hours after President's Rule was revoked and less than a day after a tripartite meeting between the Sena, the Congress and the NCP seemed to all but confirm the three would form the government.
"Naa band, naa baaja, naa baaraat (no band, no announcement, no parade)... and the government was sworn in. We smell something foul in the manner in which things were done this morning," Ahmed Patel raged.
"The constitution has been insulted," he added.
Mr Patel also questioned Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's role in the events, reminding reporters that the Governor had invited the BJP, the Sena and the NCP to form the government but failed to offer his party a similar courtesy.
"First, the BJP was invited, later Shiv Sena, then NCP, but the Congress was not given a chance to prove its majority or stake claim," he said, adding, "Now, suddenly without verifying the list of supporting MLAs, the government has been formed -- there's some wrong, something is stinking somewhere".
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi took her time over green-lighting a potential partnership with the ideologically incompatible Shiv Sena, despite top leaders repeatedly advising her that such an alliance was politically expedient to keep the BJP out of power in the country's financial hub.
However, Mr Patel has dismissed claims that cost his party a shot at forming the government.
"Nothing was amiss from Congress's side... there was no delay from our end. We were going as per schedule and as per discussions. The Congress has not delayed at all... those who are saying this don't know anything," he said, adding, "We three parties stand together and will defeat the BJP in the trust vote".
On Friday, negotiations between the Sena, the Congress and the NCP appeared to be entering its final stages - Sena leader Sanjay Raut said letters of support would be given to the Governor on Saturday.
"Anyone who is saying Congress is in any way at fault are making personal comments and we do not wish to reply to them. The three parties will now resort to all political and legal means to tackle the issue, which is a blot on the state's political history," Ahmed Patel said.
With input from IANS, PTI