Ending the month long drama and suspense, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday was sworn in as new chief minister of Maharashtra in a grand function held at the Shivaji Park in Mumbai. Uddhav, son of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb, is first from the famous Thackeray clan to leave 'remote control' behind and become a chief minister. Mr Thackeray was unanimously chosen as leader of the three party Maharashtra Vikas Aaghadi, consisting Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.
Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr Thackeray in the presence of prominent leaders, members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and activists from all the three parties.
Along with chief minister Thackeray, two leaders from each party, including Chhagan Bhujbal and Jayant Patil from NCP, Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut from Congress and Subhash Desai and Eknath Shinde were also administered the oath as ministers in the new MahaVikas Aaghadi government.
In an unusual gesture, soon after completing the formalities, Mr Thackeray stepped to the front of the stage and knelt down, touched his hands and head on the floor to express his gratitude to the people of Maharashtra for the honour bestowed on him.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, MP Supriya Sule, Maharashtra’s former CM Devendra Fadnavis, Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, MK Stalin, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray were also present at Shivaji Park for the swearing-in ceremony.
Industrialist Mukesh Ambani, along with wife Nita and son Anant were also present during the swearing-in function.
This is the second time a Shiv Sena government was sworn-in at Shivaji Park - the first one being in 1995, when it led the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government, and this time it is a Shiv Sena-led MVA government set to take office.
Uddhav Thackeray is the first member of the state's prominent political family and the third Shiv Sena CM after Manohar Joshi (1995-1998) and Narayan Rane (1999).
Since Wednesday, Shivaji Park itself was given a mega-facelift with touch-ups to the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Balasaheb Thackeray 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.
Earlier in the day, the MahaVikasAaghadi declard its 'secular, all-inclusive' common minimum programme (CMP).
The preamble of the three parties' common minimum programme states: "The alliance partners commit to uphold the secular values enshrined in the Constitution. On contentious issues of national importance as well of state importance especially having repercussions/ consequences on the secular fabric of the nation, the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress will take a joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus".
The CMP focuses on hugely on the burning issues of the farmers, unemployment problems, urban roads and housing, girls and women's issues, besides problems plaguing the industry, health sector, social justice and other fields for the overall benefit of the state and its people.
The CMP was announced at a joint press conference by Shiv Sena' Eknath Shinde, NCP's Jayant Patil, NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik and Congress' Balasaheb Thorat.
Spelling cheers for Mumbaikars, the MVA government said it will provide homes of 500 square feet free of cost to slumdwellers instead of 300 square feet in Mumbai as well as across Maharashtra, under the Slum Rehabilitation Programme, with best infrastructure and basic facilities.
The CMP also promises wholesome meals for only Rs10 for common citizens.
To ensure proper implementation of the CMP, there will be two committees - one within the state cabinet and another among the three alliance partners, for better coordination, they said.
Among the CMP's highlights are: immediate loan waiver to farmers, prompt assistance to farmers suffering due to unseasonal rains and floods, revising the crop insurance scheme to ensure immediate compensation to farmers who have suffered crop losses, ensuring remunerative prices for farm produce and sustainable water supply schemes for the drought-hit regions.
To address the problems of unemployment, the MVA regime will take immediate measures to fill up all vacant posts in the government, enact a law to provide 80 per cent jobs to locals, and provide fellowships to educated unemployed youth.
For women, girls from economically weaker sections will be given free education, working women's hostels will be built in cities and district headquarters, increased honorarium and better service conditions for anganwadi sevikas/asha workers, strengthening women's Self Help Groups to empower them, while highest priority will be accorded to safety of women by the government.
The government will take all measures to improve the standards of education, children of farmers and economically weaker sections will be given zero interest loans, the three leaders said.
For urban roads development, the new MVA government will bring a scheme designed on the Chief Minister Gram Sadak Yojana with separate financial provisions for Nagar Panchayats, Municipal Councils and Municipal Corporations.
To ensure good health for all, the government will launch Re 1 clinics at taluka levels to conduct all pathological tests, super-speciality hospitals and medical colleges will be set in each district in a phased manner, and health insurance cover provided to all citizens of Maharashtra.
For ensuring social justice, the government will take measures on pending questions of the scheduled casts (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), Dhangars, other backward classes (OBCs), and balutedars so that they are not deprived of basics rights like food, shelter, clothing, education, health, employment, besides schemes to eliminate social, educational and economic backwardness of the minority community, as per the Constitution.
The government will take special steps to develop tourism in the state, increase facilities for senior citizens, and deal sternly with food and drugs adulteration.