Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress have staked claim to form the government in Maharashtra. MLAs of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress arrived in buses and cars to a five-star hotel in Mumbai on Monday evening for what was seen as a show of strength hours after the three parties staked claim to power. “We are 162,” tweeted Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, challenging Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to “come and watch” for himself. A large conference hall in the hotel, where the MLAs gathered, flashed the “162” posters against the backdrop of an image of the Constitution of India. The three-party alliance, which calls itself the “Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi”, approached the Governor three days after the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister, with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy, in an early morning oath ceremony that left everyone in shock. Ajit Pawar had attended a meeting hours before on Friday evening, when the three parties had declared that they would form an alliance headed by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Just 48 hours after he was sworn-in as Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister, the irrigation scam case against Ajit Pawar was officially closed on Monday. The scam, pegged at around Rs 70,000 crore, relates to alleged corruption and irregularities in approval and execution of various irrigation projects in Maharashtra during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rule. Ajit Pawar was among the NCP ministers who were in-charge of the irrigation department at different times between 1999 and 2014 during the Congress-NCP coalition rule in Maharashtra. The move has given ammunition to the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine, which has accused the BJP of pressuring Ajit Pawar to switch sides.
Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court reserved till 10.30am on Tuesday its order on a plea by the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena combine’s plea against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister in a midnight coup engineered by the BJP with the support of Ajit Pawar. A bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna is likely to pass an order on holding of a floor test, which the combine was pressing for Monday itself. Commencing arguments, SG Tushar Mehta commences arguments, raised preliminary objections to judicial review of the Governor’s decision. Mehta clarified that he was appearing for the Secretary of the Governor since the Governor could not be a party in person. In his letter, Pawar wrote his decision was in the interest of the people and a stable government. He added that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had also staked claim, citing 170 MLAs in his support. At 10 am, senior leaders of the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena combine reached the Governor’s office just half an hour before the Supreme Court hears the combine’s plea against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister. Congress leader Ashok Chavan said they reached the Raj Bhavan at 10 am with letters of support to prove they had the numbers to form the government.
A day after the Supreme Court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to place before it Governor BS Koshyari’s order on November 23 inviting BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis to form the government. The SC also asked for Fadnavis’s letter to the Governor claiming majority. The top court will Tuesday take a call on the floor test in the state that has been plunged into a political crisis for a month now. On Sunday, a bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government on a petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine. The court also issued notice to Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. The bench asked Solicitor General Mehta to produce letters of the Governor at 10.30 am Tuesday for passing orders. The apex court declined the fervent request of Mehta seeking two days to place the Governor’s communication on record.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and AM Singhvi, appearing for the combine, told the bench that floor test be conducted on Monday itself so that it can be ascertained that Fadnavis enjoys majority in the house. They maintained that post-poll alliance of the three parties have the majority in the 288-member house. While Sibal termed as ‘bizarre’ the Governor’s decision to revoke President’s rule and elect Fadnavis as the Chief Minister, Singhvi said it is a “murder of democracy”. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for two BJP MLAs and some independents, questioned the maintainability of the writ petition filed by the combine and said they should have approached the Bombay High Court. Amid the political imbroglio, Ajit Pawar rushed to CM Devendra Fadnavis’s residence late at night, ahead of the crucial Supreme Court on floor test. In the meeting that lasted for 40 minutes, the two leaders are learnt to have discussed the apex court hearing and the ministerial berths that would be given to Ajit Pawar’s group. The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, said that it was a “routine meeting” to discuss “floor management and Supreme Court judgement”. “Cabinet assurances were given before bringing Ajit Pawar on-board,” a BJP source said. The NCP claimed three MLAs, who among others had attended swearing-in of Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister, were flown to Delhi in a chartered plane by the BJP the same day.
Fearing attempts to split their ranks, the parties have moved their folks to various hotels to prepare for the test of strength that they say the BJP will definitely lose. Any party needs 145 MLAs for a majority in the state assembly. The Shiv Sena has submitted to the Governor signatures of 63 MLAs (including independents), the Congress 44 and the NCP 51 (of 54). The Samajwadi Party has submitted the signatures of two members. In the Supreme Court, the Sena-NCP-Congress claimed the support of 154 MLAs, a few short of the number of signatures given to the Governor. The NCP says the signatures are missing because lawmakers were on their way back at the time. The BJP, which won 105 seats in the 288-member assembly, told the court it has the support of 170 MLAs, including all 54 MLAs of the NCP. Ajit Pawar’s uncle Sharad Pawar, the chief of the NCP, says 53 MLAs are with the party. Three NCP signatures missing from the letter submitted to the Governor on Monday morning are those of Ajit Pawar, Anna Bansod and Narhari Zhirwal. Maharashtra government formation LIVE Updates: Vehicles carrying Shiv Sena, NCP MLAs arrived at Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt hotel, where Sharad Pawar reached along with his daughter Supriya Sule around an hour ago. Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut invited Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai, where he said the three-party combine will showcase their show of strength. “We are all one and together, watch our 162 together for the first time at Grand Hyatt at 7 pm. Come and watch yourself,” Sanjay Raut tweeted. No party won a majority in last month’s Maharashtra polls. Pre-poll allies BJP and Sena won a majority together, but split over the Sena’s demand for rotational chief ministership.
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