"People taunt that it's an ED government. Yes, it's an ED government, of Eknath-Devendra." — Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis employed some wordplay in the assembly today, using Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's name and his own, to counter the charge that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was misused to effect the change in government.
Opposition MLAs earlier shouted "ED, ED" when rebels from Uddhav Thackeray's Sena supported Eknath Shinde during the trust vote, which he won 164-99, increasing the winning margin from the Speaker's election held yesterday. Some of these MLAs or their families are facing investigations by the ED, an agency under the BJP-led central government.
Ever since the Shinde camp's mutiny began — eventually leading to Uddhav Thackeray's resignation as chief minister last Wednesday — Team Thackeray has been saying the ED was misused to pressure the party's MLAs into a BJP-backed rebellion.
Today, besides countering these allegations, Mr Fadnavis said a BJP-Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance had received the mandate in 2019, "but majority was deliberately taken away from us". He was referring to Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena having ditched the BJP to form the government with the Congress and NCP — the government that fell last week.
"With Eknath Shinde, we have once again formed our government with Shiv Sena. A Shiv Sainik has become the CM," he said, underlining Mr Shinde's claim that his faction is the real Shiv Sena. The BJP and Shiv Sena were in power together from 2014 to 2019, and Mr Fadnavis was the chief minister.
"I have become Deputy CM as per my party's command," added Mr Fadnavis. "I would have even sat at home had the party told me to."
He also addressed the jibes he's been facing over his "I-will-return" claim before the 2019 state polls. "I am going to take revenge against the trolls by forgiving them.”
Without naming Uddhav Thackeray, Mr Fadnavis claimed that Maharashtra had a "deficit of leadership availability" in the last few years. "But there are two leaders in the House now, who will always be available for people,” he said, referring to Eknath Shinde and himself.