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|January 30, 1999||
Manohar Joshi resigns, Rane next CM
In a sudden development, Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi resigned on Saturday, a month-and-a-half before he could complete four years in office.
Without assigning any reasons in a confidential communique, Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray asked Joshi to resign this evening. Joshi immediately drove to Raj Bhavan and tendered his resignation to Governor Dr P C Alexander at 1830 hours, which the governor accepted.
Joshi, who was in Pune, received Thackeray's letter as soon as he arrived in the city.
There was no indication of his resignation on Friday when Joshi and Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde briefed the media after the coordination committee meeting of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in the state.
Joshi said Thackeray had asked him in writing to submit his resignation and "as a disciplined soldier of the Shiv Sena, I obeyed my leader's orders".
Thackeray announced that Revenue and Water Supply Minister Narayan Rane will be Joshi's successor at a meeting of Sena legislators at Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters in north central Bombay.
Rane, who will be sworn in on Monday, February 1, said he had no complaints about Joshi's tenure as chief minister, even though both men have not seen eye to eye for a long time.
A member of the Sena's second line leadership, Rane, a Maratha, is expected to be a stop gap chief minister, who may vacate office close to the assembly election, scheduled in March 2000. Political analysts believe that Thackeray's youngest son Udhav will then take over as chief minister and lead the Sena's election campaign.
"I do not know why I was asked to resign. I would be the happiest person to know," Joshi told reporters, adding that, "The odds were staked against me."
When asked about his performance, he said, "I am satisfied with my performance. As Balasaheb, who is the party chief, asked me to resign, I have acted accordingly. He has not said anything specific, but just asked me to resign."
The Sena chief had asked all party legislators to be present in the city today. A meeting was called to gauge the support for Joshi among legislators and hear complaints about the chief minister's style of functioning.
Joshi has since vacated Varsha, the chief minister's official residence, and moved to his private home at Shivaji Park. "Now I will do what Balasaheb asks me to do," he said, when asked about his future plans.
With an assembly election just a year away, Rane was asked if he would be able to perform. "Balasaheb has asked me and I will perform," the chief minister-designate said. "If one wants to perform I can do so in two months also."
Union minister Pramod Mahajan -- who is the BJP's contact man with the Sena leadership -- described the change of guard as an internal matter.''We have no objection to it,'' he said.
Joshi has been blamed for the Sena's deteriorating relationship with the BJP. Ties between the allies have been strained over the last few months with the state BJP stridently opposing Thackeray's suggestion to provide free electricity to farmers. The Sena opposed Munde's proposal to hike the cotton procurement price from the present Rs 2,100 per quintal to Rs 2,500 per quintal and this further fuelled the tension.The outgoing chief minister also reportedly did not get along with Munde, who is also Mahajan's brother-in-law.
Trouble for Joshi began last year when Thackeray criticised him for his close relationship with former state chief minister Sharad Pawar. Joshi was also lambasted by his mentor for non-performance. Thackeray announced a sanyas from politics for three months and when he returned, he gave Joshi a clean chit.
When things started going easy for Joshi, sharp differences between the BJP and Sena surfaced with the BJP vehemently opposing Thackeray's slum rehabilitation scheme and free electricity to farmers. Joshi's constant tiffs with Munde were also widely publicised.
''I will work with the new leader chosen by Mr Thackeray and give him all co-operation to run the alliance government," Munde said.
Asked whether there was any indication about the change in the Sena leadership at Friday's coordination committee meeting, Mahajan said Thackeray had told him about the chief minister's replacement.
The issue of a change in the BJP ministers in the Rane ministry will be discussed at the party's central executive meeting in New Delhi on Sunday.
Mahajan and other BJP leaders, in Aurangabad to attend the party's two-day state executive conference, were addressing a public meeting when news of Joshi's resignation reached them.
The Union minister cut short his speech and along with Munde and state BJP president Suryabhan Vahadane left the meeting and discussed the political developments before briefing mediapersons. Sunday's executive meeting has been cancelled.
Chhagan Bhujbal, leader of the Opposition in the state legislative council, said the governor should invite Rane to be sworn in as chief minister only after ascertaining whether he enjoyed the BJP's support. Bhujbal, who lost out in the Sena leadership stakes to Joshi almost ten years ago and joined the Congress, described the chief minister-designate as a "crook." There are quite a few cases pending against Rane in the court, Bhujbal alleged.
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