Mumbai: Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s 44-year-old state chief is expected to be chosen as Maharashtra’s next chief minister at a meeting of the party’s newly-elected legislators today. Focus can then shift to the grand swearing-in ceremony that the BJP plans for the evening of Friday, October 31
The BJP’s first ever Maharashtra chief minister and a "mini-cabinet" of six to nine ministers, all from the BJP, will take oath at Mumbai’s iconic Wankhede stadium where India won the cricket world cup in 2011. A cabinet expansion will happen later depending on how alliance talks with the Shiv Sena go.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the oath ceremony, as will other BJP A-listers, celebrities and business leaders. The Wankhede has been chosen for its seating capacity of 40,000.
Today, the BJP’s 121 legislators will meet to elect the legislature party leader, who will also be the chief minister. Save any last-minute hitch, that man will be Devendra Fadnavis, who has shot into national prominence as the party’s young Maharashtra face in the last one month. Home Minister and senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh will act as observer at the 4 pm meeting in Mumbai.
At 6.30 pm, they will meet the governor to formally stake claim to form government.
The party has posted its most superior performance in Maharashtra; it is 22 seats short of a clear majority in the 288-member assembly, but is not short of options to bridge that gap.
Talks to renew its partnership with the Shiv Sena are on, but the BJP is not unduly stressed about the outcome.
Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party has not just offered its unconditional support, but also promised that if a minority BJP government has to face a test of strength in the assembly, the NCP will abstain from voting. That will ensure a win for the BJP government.
The Shiv Sena has indicated that it does not expect talks to drag on. "The BJP and Shiv Sena have the same blood group. It’s a matter of time before it matches," said the party’s Sanjay Raut.