Devendra Fadnavis was on Friday sworn in as Chief Minister of the first BJP government in Maharashtra at a grand ceremony where Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray made a last-minute appearance, raising the possibility of a rapprochement between the saffron parties.
44-year-old Fadnavis, a three time MLA and the second Brahmin to occupy the top post in the state, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor C Vidyasagar Rao at the Wankhede Stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, several Union ministers and veterans L K Advani and MM Joshi among others.
Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states including Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan), Anandiben Patel (Gujarat), Manohar Parrikar (Goa), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) and Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana) and those governed by allies including Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh) and Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab) also attended the event.
Top industrialists along with other eminent personalities, including from Bollywood, and Fadnavis' banker wife Amruta, were present at the packed venue when seven Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State also took oath.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, whose party had decided to boycott the event citing "constant humiliation" by BJP ahead of government formation, attended the event of his party’s former ally along with his wife after a last-minute call by BJP President Amit Shah.
Thackeray's presence indicated a possible rapprochement between the two estranged Hindutva parties which fell apart just ahead of the assembly polls following failure of seat sharing talks.
All eyes were on Modi and Uddhav, who shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
With 121 BJP MLAs in a House of 288, Fadnavis is heading a minority government that has been asked to prove majority in two weeks. Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party with 41 MLAs has already declared unconditional outside support to the new government.
Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in are Eknath Khadse, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde, Prakash Mehta, Chandrakant Patil and Vishnu Savara. The Ministers of State are Dilip Kamble and Vidya Thakur.
Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, M Venkaiah Naidu, Ravishanker Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Radhamohan Singh were present on the occasion.
Fadnavis is only the second Brahmin Chief Minister after Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi in the state dominated by Maratha politicians.
Groomed in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh tradition and handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Fadnavis has become the 27th Chief Minister of Maharashtra and the 18th person to hold the post. He is the fourth politician from Vidarbha region to become CM.
He helmed the BJP in the state when it posted emphatic victories in Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls.
Uddhav Thackeray, who sat beside Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, remained silent and broody through the proceedings, but was seen smiling, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with Modi after the ceremony got over.
"Uddhavji attended the swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis after BJP president Amit Shah called him up to extend invitation," Sena MP Vinayak Raut said.
"Amit Shah also assured Uddhavji of a positive decision on participation of Shiv Sena in the new government and we are hopeful there will be a positive outcome when talks are held," he said.
It was, however, unclear when talks between the two parties will resume about a mutually acceptable power-sharing arrangement.
Governor Rao has given Fadnavis 15 days from the day of being sworn in to prove his majority in the Assembly.
BJP's strength in the House has come down to 121 after the death of its MLA Govind Rathod, but it has claimed support of all seven independents and some from smaller parties.
NCP has said it will abstain from voting during the floor test if Sena were to sit in the opposition. This will help the Fadnavis government to sail through.
However, taking 63-member Sena on board is still the best option available to Fadnavis to reach the magic figure of 145.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi