Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra at a grand function in Mumbai's Shivaji Park on Thursday. Donning a striking saffron-coloured kurta-pyjama, Thackeray took oath at 6:40 pm. Alongwith him, two legislators each from the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress, the key constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, took oath as ministers. They are: Shiv Sena's Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai, NCP's Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal, and Congress' Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut.
In a gesture of humility, soon after completing the formalities, Thackeray stepped to the front of the stage and knelt down, touching the floor with his hands and head to express his gratitude to the people of Maharashtra for the honour bestowed on him.
Among the prominent dignitaries present on the occasion were more than 500 farmers and farm widows from all over Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackery's cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray, industrialist Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita Ambani and their family members.
Also present were at least three Chief Ministers from other states and six former Maharashtra Chief Ministers, including Sharad Pawar, Sushilkumar Shinde, Manohar Joshi, Prithviraj Chavan, Ashok Chavan and Devendra Fadnavis.
Other prominent personalities from all the three parties included Abhishek M. Singhvi, Rajiv Shukla, Praful Patel, Kishore Tiwari, Supriya Sule-Pawar, Sanjay Raut, Arvind Sawant, Rohit Pawar, and Rashmi Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray, the wife and son of Uddhav Thackeray.
An army of around 1,000 workmen and designers worked under the baton of veteran Bollywood art director Nitin Desai to ensure the 'Shivrajyabhishek' set in colourful splendour with a massive stage measuring around 8,000 square feet at the Shivaji Park.
Since Wednesday, Shivaji Park itself has been given a mega-facelift with touch-ups to the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the BalThackeray memorial, a bust of Uddhav Thackeray's mother, Meenatai Thackeray, sweeping of the ground and disposing off any wastes in and outside the 28-acre ground, erection of flood-lights, and laying of a massive red carpet where the guests would be seated.
This is the second time a Shiv Sena government is sworn-in at Shivaji Park - the first one being in 1995, when it led the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government, and this time it is a Sena-led MVA government taking office.
Thackeray has become the first member of the state's prominent political family and the third Sena Chief Minister after Manohar Joshi (1995-1998) and Narayan Rane (1999).
Since Thackeray is not an elected member of either house, the party strategists are currently studying which Assembly constituency he can contest from in a by-poll which will be necessitated within six months or by May-end.
MEET UDDHAV'S MINISTERS:
Bhujbal (72) is a veteran figure in Maharashtra politics, who has the rare distinction of being associated with all the three major non-BJP parties in the state. A senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, Bhujbal had been a member of both the Shiv Sena and the Congress at different times. Taking over as a minister is a sort of revival of his political fortunes after spending two years in jail since March 2016 in a money laundering case when the BJP-led government was in power. Bhujbal, who represents the OBC community, cut his political teeth in the Shiv Sena. He served as the Mayor of Mumbai, a Sena bastion, two times - 1985-86 and 1990-91. He quit the Sena in 1991, causing quite a stir in state politics, and joined the Congress. Bhujbal resigned from the Congress in 1999 and sided with Sharad Pawar who formed the NCP the same year. He became deputy chief minister in December 2008 and held key portfolios such as home affairs and public works in the Congress-NCP government.
Jayant Patil (57) is perceived as a leader with a clean image. He took charge of the NCP's Maharashtra unit replacing Sunil Tatkare in April 2018, ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls. The NCP retained its tally in the 2019 April Lok Sabha election and fared better in the October Assembly polls, but the credit largely went to his boss, Pawar. Being part of a motley alliance of once-rival and ideologically divergent parties, Patil, known for composed demeanour, will be one of the key leaders who will be seen doing the trapeze act to ensure the three-party government sustains. Patil, son of well-known Maharashtra leader the late Rajaram Patil, held key portfolios like finance, home and rural development from 1999 to 2014 when the Congress-NCP combine ruled the state.
Shinde (55) is the most prominent face of the Sena in the adjoining Thane city from where has been elected consecutively four terms to the assembly. Considered a troubleshooter in the Sena, Shinde was the PWD minister in the previous BJP-led government (2014-19.
One of the confidants of Uddhav Thackeray, Desai (77) is currently an MLC. The senior-most member of the cabinet had been a member of the assembly three times. Now serving his third term in the upper house of the legislature, Desai was the industries minister in the 2014-19 BJP-Sena government.
Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat (66) took charge of the party's state unit at a difficult time. When Thorat became the Maharashtra Congress chief in July this year, the party was already staring down the barrel after its Lok Sabha poll debacle in the state, once its citadel. It could win only one seat in the general election and was relegated to inferior position than its ally, the NCP. The Congress (44) though fared better in the Assembly elections, winning two more seats than its 2014 tally. The result may not be satisfactory for the party, which led the state several times in the past, a trusted lieutenant of the party's central leadership, Thorat ensured proper co-ordination in the state unit hit by factionalism. Thorat, known for maintaining a low profile, was first elected as an MLA from Sangamner in 1985 as an independent. In 1990, he contested Assembly poll on a Congress ticket and this is his eighth term as a legislator. He became a minister of state in 1999 and was promoted as a cabinet minister in 2004. The Congress legislature party leader has held revenue, agriculture, water conservation and protocol portfolios in the past.
A key leader of the Congress from its erstwhile bastion of Vidarbha in eastern Maharashtra, Raut (62) is a four-term MLA. He is national chairman of the Congress's Scheduled Caste department and one of the working presidents of the party in Maharashtra. Hailing from Nagpur, Raut, too, comes with past experience in government. He has held animal husbandry, employment guarantee and water conservation departments so far.