Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, whose Bharatiya Janata Party-backed government is facing attacks and legal challenges from a faction led by Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, has said that 'they are not doing anything illegal' and have followed all constitutional steps for the formation of new government in the state.
In an interview with ANI, Shinde said that his was a strong government.
"We are not doing anything illegal. In this country, there are rules, laws and the constitution and we have to work according to them.
"Today, we have more than a two-thirds majority that's why the decision we took is legal and valid. The Speaker also recognised us. The court has pulled up those who approached the court against us," he said.
"We have not done anything illegal and for those who did (illegal things), the court will decide against them. The floor test and Speaker elections have been held and the government won the trust vote.
"This government has the support of 170 MLAs and it is a 'majboot' (strong) government," he added.
"These 40-50 MLAs were facing challenges in their own constituencies as our alliance partners were strengthening those who were defeated. When we win elections, then voters expect development works including water, roads and other basic works, there were expectations but our MLAs were not able to do this due to deficiency of funds and other problems. We talked to our seniors many times that there should be corrective measures. But we could not succeed in this unfortunately. That's why our 40-50 MLAs took this decision," he said.
According to the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with the anti-defection law, any group of lawmakers can leave a party and form another or merge with another party without disqualification if they are together at least two-thirds of legislators of the party's original strength.
Shinde said his government is of common people and will work for giving justice to all sections of society.
Hitting out at Thackeray for his jibe at him, Shinde referred to his past in which he drove an autorickshaw and said 'autorickshaw has left Mercedes behind'.
"(Auto) rickshaw has left the Mercedes behind because this government is for common people, this is a government to give justice to every section. We will perform in a way that every constituent, everyone feels it is my government, it will work for me. This will be the difference," Shinde said.
Shinde was responding to a question on Thackeray's remarks on Tuesday in which he had said that the BJP used to call the Maha Vikas Aghadi government a three-wheeler government but now the person who drove three-wheeler is running the government.
Thackeray also accused Shinde of backstabbing him.
Referring to the BJP's support in forming the government, Shinde said the party had shown to people of the country that they are not only for power but also for ideology.
"All were anticipating, there was a perception in the public that BJP does anything for power. But they have shown to the country that these 50 people have taken a Hindutva position, an ideological position and their agenda is of development and Hindutva and they should be supported. And they supported us despite having more numbers, more MLAs. They gave us support for the post of Chief Minister," Shinde said.
Shinde said Prime Minister Narendra Modi told him to take the state forward, take it towards development and take forward development works.
The chief minister said prime minister assured of his and the Centre's full support in development endeavours.
"This is a big thing. The Centre is also with us. We have not done anything illegal. The pre-poll alliance was between BJP and Shiv Sena. We are allying with that party."
Asked about his remark of their alliance winning 200 seats in the next assembly polls, Shinde said 170 MLAs are with the alliance and only 30 more remain.
"We can get more than 200 seats," he said.
He said BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis has become deputy chief minister showing 'a big heart'.
Shinde said it was unexpected for Fadnavis but he followed BJP directions.
"It was unexpected for him, but he followed party directions. And a worker like me of Balasaheb and Anand Dighe was made the chief minister, I am thankful to PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief J P Nadda. They have given an opportunity and changed the perception that BJP is not only a part for power but also for ideology," he said.
Answering a question on cabinet formation, he said it will be discussed and a decision taken soon.
Shinde said he had several times apprised the Shiv Sena leadership that the party was not gaining from being part of the MVA government and was getting damaged.
Noting that there must be a 'big reason' for 50 MLAs to leave the ruling alliance, Shinde said the MVA government could not take a decision when matters concerning Hindutva or Veer Savarkar or that on Mumbai blasts and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim came up.
He said they had decided to take further 'Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray's ideology'.
"We have decided to take our Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray's Hindutva ideology, his role further. If 50 MLAs take such a step, then there must be a big reason for it. Nobody takes such a big decision for small reason. Even a corporator does not take such a decision. Why did 50 MLAs take such a decision? There was a need to think about this," Shinde said.
"Shiv Sena-BJP contested 2019 assembly elections together but the government was formed with Congress, Nationalist Congress Party. Due to this, whenever issues of Hindutva came up, matters relating to Savarkar came up, Mumbai blast issue came up, on Dawood issue came up and other issues when (these) came, we were unable to take a decision," he added.
Shinde was referring to NCP leader and former Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in February this year in connection with a money-laundering probe allegedly linked to the activities of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his aides.
The ED had in May submitted a chargesheet against Malik in the money laundering case.