Thackeray quits after party revolt

Embattled Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation from the post on Wednesday, moments after India's Supreme Court refused to stay Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's direction to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to take a floor test in the Assembly on Thursday.

"I am not the one who will stick to power," said Mr Thackeray in a virtual address to the public.

"From this morning, my workers are being sent notices by the police.

"Central forces are here. The army might be called. Those who should have been at China borders will be here. I don't want to see blood of my workers spilling on the roads of Mumbai. Today, I resign from the post of chief minister."

Mr Thackeray said he was also quitting as a Member of the Legislative Council and added that he would concentrate only on party work.

"I never said I would return," he told Shiv Sena workers. "I never wanted to be here at this place but I came. From now on, I will be fully with you."

In what turned out to be Mr Thackeray's final move to claim the Maratha-Hindutva ideology, which was the chief reason for the mutiny that unseated him, the Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday evening approved renaming the cities of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad to Dharashiv.

While possible legal tangles remain, the renaming was a crucially timed political move.

With Mr Thackeray's resignation, the unique three-party experiment of the MVA, in which the Shiv Sena tied up with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has come to an end.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the single-largest party in the Assembly with 106 MLAs, is likely to stake a claim to form the new government. With the support of the rebel Shiv Sena faction and other smaller parties, it will have 168 members in the 287-member house.

The MVA has been reduced to 119.

BJP legislators and senior leaders gathered at the residence of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai and congratulated one another over the collapse of the MVA government.

Former minister and BJP leader Chandrashekhar Bawankule said "the truth prevailed, finally".

BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar said: "This government, which stopped the development of the state for more than two years, has gone. We will bring in a new era of development."

A rebellion by Mr Eknath Shinde and 39 other Shiv Sena MLAs has spelt the end for the alliance government led by Mr Thackeray, who was left with just 13 MLAs.

However, a rebel Shiv Sena MLA said the resignation of Mr Thackeray "is not a matter of joy for us".

The rift, he indicated, was a fallout of the party's alliance with the NCP and the Congress. He also underscored the role of Sena leader Sanjay Raut - whose increasing prominence, according to some party insiders, had made rebel leader Shinde uncomfortable.

"Uddhav Thackeray did not take note of the issues pointed by us," Mr Deepak Kesarkar, spokesman of the rebel faction, told NDTV.

"We are all sad that while fighting the NCP and the Congress, we got angry with our leader, too."

The rebel MLAs, who were camping out initially in Surat and then in Guwahati, went to Goa amid the day-long suspense over the floor test.

Mr Shinde's faction said in court they were the real Shiv Sena and wanted to renew their alliance with the BJP. Mr Fadnavis is likely to stake a claim to form the new government, with Mr Shinde as his deputy.

BJP leader Girish Mahajan said the party has the support of more than 170 MLAs and will form the government in the next three days.

Indo-Asian News Service

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