Uddhav in hot seat, Bhujbal returns from oblivion

Thackeray, 59, became the third Sena leader - after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane - and the first Thackeray to occupy the top post. Photo/PTI

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday took oath as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra along with six ministers, as the political crisis in the state ended with an outcome few would have predicted when the results were announced on Oct 24.

Thackeray, 59, became the third Sena leader - after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane - and the first Thackeray to occupy the top post.

Eknath Shinde, Subhash Desai (both Shiv Sena), Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal (both NCP), Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut (both Congress) were sworn in as ministers.

Bhujbal's return to the corridors of power marks the revival of political fortunes for the veteran leader who spent two years in jail since March 2016 in a money laundering case when the BJP-led government was in power.

Bhujbal, 72, has the rare distinction of being associated with all the three major non-BJP parties in the state.

He cut his political teeth in the Sena but quit the party in 1991 and joined the Congress. He resigned from the party in 1999 and sided with Sharad Pawar, who formed the NCP the same year.

He became deputy chief minister in December 2008 in the Congress-NCP government.

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered oath to Thackeray and the six ministers at the ceremony held at Shivaji Park.

Those present at the ceremony included NCP chief Sharad Pawar, senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and DMK leader MK Stalin.

Former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, his cousin and MP Supriya Sule, Uddhav Thackeray's wife Rashmi, his MLA-son Aaditya and industrialist Mukesh Ambani's wife Nita were also among those who attended the ceremony.

There was speculation that Ajit Pawar would be sworn in as deputy chief minister on Thursday but only two NCP ministers took oath at the ceremony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were among the leaders who congratulated Uddhav on becoming the chief minister.

In a congratulatory letter, Sonia, who chose to skip the swearing-in, said the country is facing "unprecedented threats" from the BJP.

"Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress have come together under quite extraordinary circumstances at a time when the country faces unprecedented threats from the BJP," Gandhi's letter said.

"I wish you all the very best as you embark on a new innings in your life," she added.

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