he Supreme Court on Sunday issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra governments in a petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to swear in Devendra Fadnavis as the chief minister. A bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to Fadnavis and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta to produce letters of the governor for passing orders. Not only the political parties but also the voters and people of Maharashtra, all were shocked with over night development and secret swearing in ceremony. When it became clear that the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena had resolved their ideological and political disparities and agreed on a coalition government under the chief ministership of the Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, Modi and Amit Shah went all out to ensure the new coalition does not come to power, because Maharashtra is financial capital and here they have backed their bread all these while. Slipping from the power in this particular state was not in their interest. Sharad Pawar met PM and guessed what can go wrong for coalition, he prompted Ajit Pawar to crack a deal with BJP and somehow succeeded in revoking President rule.
A deal was emerged under which Ajit Pawar, who was booked by the ED in September for the cooperative bank scam, agreed to support Devendra Fadnavis. He was offered the post of deputy chief minister and obviously given assurances that the cases against him would go into cold storage. Ajit Pawar also got his MLAs to sign a piece of paper, which many of them have alleged was under false pretenses. They signed a paper for their attendance, rather than for supporting Fadnavis as chief minister, they allege.
President Ram Nath Kovind was roused up and asked to sign a notification revoking Central rule in Maharashtra. He did this at 5:47 am. But the president could only act based on a recommendation of the cabinet, and there appears to have been no cabinet meeting or recommendation to that effect. The government says it took recourse to Rule 12 of the Government of India Rules, which says the “Prime Minister may, in any case or classes of cases permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary. The two leaders Modi and Shah knew they could not afford to let the Maharashtra government out of their hands and had prepared the ground, from day one, to ensure the BJP returned to power. They had already played fast and loose with norms and principles; all that were required was a final act of flagrancy, which they pulled off without any hesitation or embarrassment.
The Supreme Court observed that it has taken note of all the arguments, particularly the argument that the governor’s decision on November 23 inviting the Fadnavis to form a government is unconstitutional. The court’s order, made available hours after the hearing states that the court hasn’t considered the petitioners’ prayer to “pass an appropriate writ/order/direction to the Governor to invite the alliance of Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress which has the support of more than 144 MLAs to form the government under the leadership of Pawar.
Based on a questionable list of signatures of NCP MLAs – which Governor Koshiyari made no attempt to verify despite the fact that the NCP president, Sharad Pawar, had already announced the party’s backing of Thackeray – Fadnavis was sworn in at 7:30 am. This was a blatant violation of the principles laid down by former president K.R. Narayanan, who said that governors who don’t take steps to ensure the chief minister they are swearing in actually has the support of the requisite number of MLAs will only end up encouraging bribery and horse-trading.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that the Maharashtra floor test be held within 24 hours on Wednesday which will be conducted through open ballot and will be telecast live. The court said the pro-tem speaker would conduct the floor test after the members take oath by 5pm on Wednesday. Survival is biggest challenge for only BJP and Fadnavis at this moment because they already took power in hand. Ruling party speakers in the past have been notorious in their partisanship whenever the anti-defection law has to be invoked. And the courts, regrettably, can sometimes take forever to deliver their judgements. Now the time has to decide what role the courts, the Election Commission and also NCP president Sharad Pawar will play in the revealing spectacle. Right now nothing is very clear.
The floor test is latest in a string of such political spectacles that have been witnessed over the past few years from Uttarakhand in May 2016 to Goa and Manipur in March 2017 to Karnataka in March last year and again in July this year. However, a stranger floor test was to be seen in Uttar Pradesh assembly in February 1998. According to a news report, if more than one person stakes claim to form government and the majority is not clear, the governor may call for a special session to see who has majority. Some legislators may be absent or may choose not to vote. In such a case, the majority is counted based on those present and voting. But in the scenario of Maharashtra the betrayal from junior Pawar has forced BJP to withdraw from power and finally Uddhav Thackeray to sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra with two deputies respectively on each from Congress and one from NCP.
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