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NEW DELHI : Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra on Thursday evening in a glittering ceremony at Mumbai’s historic Shivaji Park, after six weeks of twists and turns in the political thriller unfolding in the state. The Sena leader is the first from the Thackeray family to lead a government which for the first time sees the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) joining hands with it.

The day also saw the Maha Vikas Aghadi promising to govern by a common minimum programme (CMP) whose central thrust stayed close to the rights-based regime of the former United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with social spending at its core.

Two leaders each from the three alliance partners took oath on Thursday along with Thackeray. This included Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai of the Shiv Sena, Jayant Patil and Chhaggan Bhujbal of the NCP, and Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut of Congress. The designation and portfolio announcements are yet to take place. Hours after the swearing in, a meeting of the cabinet was held.

The preamble of the CMP of the three parties reads that on “contentious issues" of importance, the parties will take a “joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus". It also provides for two coordination committees—state cabinet and allies—aimed at facilitating the smooth running of the state government.

The CMP has pledged “immediate loan waiver" for farmers, 80% reservation in jobs for local/domicile holders, no interest on education loans for children of farmers and for those from economically weaker sections, a robust slum rehabilitation programme, health insurance cover for every citizen, “one rupee" health clinics, and food for common people at 10.

“The alliance is a strong one. It will work for all sections of society in Maharashtra. We will not discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, or region. This CMP has been decided together by Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, and Sonia Gandhi and has their vision," Shinde said.

The CMP, however, is likely to put stress on the state budget considering the recent increase in public spending, which has sharply widened the gap between the state’s receipts and spending, met through borrowing.

Maharashtra’s fiscal deficit, though lower than that of many other state, widened sharply from less than 1% of gross state domestic product (GSDP) in FY18 to 1.81% in FY19. It is projected to scale 2.07% in the current financial year at 61,670 crore with an increase in public spending.

The government, which was revenue surplus in FY18, turned revenue deficit in the subsequent year, with the deficit projected to increase further. About 123 million people live in Maharashtra, which has a 30 trillion economy.

Thackeray, 59, became the third Sena leader after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane to be sworn in on the top post the ceremony that saw attendance from top leaders, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Thackeray’s cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, and M.K. Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior party leader Rahul Gandhi sent congratulatory messages via a letter. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis was also present at the ceremony. “Congratulations to Uddhav Thackeray Ji on taking oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra. I am confident he will work diligently for the bright future of Maharashtra," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Thackeray announced late night that the first decision taken by the state cabinet was to approve 20 Crores for conservation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's capital in Raigad Fort. He also added that his government would work to help farmers.

Gireesh Chandra Prasad and PTI contributed to the story.

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