Mumbai:The swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as the chief minister of the first BJP government of Maharashtra was a festive occasion in Mumbai. There were over two dozen boats in the Arabian Sea with giant lotuses in them, appearing to ‘bloom’ out of the water at the picturesque Marine Drive, which tourists were seen clicking away merrily on their mobiles. And, huge congratulatory hoardings and banners on most roads leading to the venue, Wankhede Stadium, besides other BJP strongholds in Mumbai, especially the constituencies of the ministers sworn-in today.
Wankhede Stadium, usually reserved for all kinds of cricket matches (tests, one-dayers and T-20s), or lavish private weddings, saw a first-ever political function with all the stands choke-full with BJP activists, around 3,000 VIPs led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and others.
Former BJP ally of 25 years till they broke up Sep. 25, Shiv Sena had planned a boycott of the swearing-in ceremony, but a last-minute call from Amit Shah worked wonders… Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was present as well as several senior party leaders and newly-elected legislators. Now, the crucial question is: will Sena support/join the BJP’s minority government and when?
As far as the decibel volumes of the crowds were concerned at Wankhede Stadium, they rivaled any exciting cricket matches, suprising the people living in the vicinity. The gathering erupted in thunderous cheers and applause when Fadnavis came to take the oath, and later for Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde who joined as cabinet ministers, along with seven others.
This is only the fourth time – out of 27 swearing-in ceremonies since 1960, the state’s formation – that the solemn function was held outside the stately Raj Bhavan.
Earlier, when the first CM Y. B. Chavan took office May 1, 1960, he was sworn-in in the open complex outside Mantralaya. In 1995, Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi was sworn-in at the sprawling Shivaji Park grounds.In Nov. 2004, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh had held a cabinet expansion at Azad Maidan.
Today (Friday), the state’s second youngest chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was sworn-in at Wankhede Stadium.
As during cricket matches, there were huge TV screens inside and outside the stadium to enable people view the ceremonies properly, besides one gigantic screen on the backstage. At different intervals, huge pictures of top present and past BJP leaders were hanging.
The huge 100-feet wide stage, with an image of Mantralaya in the background, was designed by renowned Bollywood art director Nitin Desai. An old BJP favourite, Desai had designed the huge stage set for Narendra Modi’s first rally in Mumbai 10 years ago at Shivaji Park when he was the Gujarat CM.
The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party criticized the spending on the swearing-in ceremony. AICC Secretary Sanjay Nirupam said Maharashtra has elected a CM, not a king, so why this opulence. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also castigated the BJP for organizing “the most lavish oath-taking ceremony in the history of Maharashtra.”
This is also the first time in Maharashtra that an oath-taking ceremony was attended by none other than the PM, besides other top BJP leaders, union ministers, chief ministers of several states, a liberal doze of Bollywood glamour, business honchos, sporstpersons and other celebs.
Security was tight in and around the stadium in view of the large number of VVIPs and VIPs present this evening. In fact, the ordinary BJP workers had started entering the stadium premises from noon onwards… Till the gates closed, there was a clamour for more passes from those activists left out.