Since Maha Vikas Aghadi came to power there has been a continuous tug of war between the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had written a letter to the Governor apprising him of the cabinet’s decision to conduct the assembly speaker’s election on December 28 by open vote instead of a secret ballot.
This was the third letter addressed to Raj Bhavan on the matter; a letter recommending election to the Constitutional post was sent to the Governor on December 24, and a delegation of senior MVA leaders approached Koshyari with another letter from the CM, requesting his assent to hold the election, on December 26.
However, the Governor did not give his approval to hold the election and objected to an amendment in the rules for the election, made on December 23, which provided for open voting instead of a secret ballot. Terming the amendment “unconstitutional” and “illegal”, Koshyari’s letter which circulated on Wednesday with its date cropped, said that he cannot be pressured to consent to the process as it needed to be legally examined.
Governor Koshyari in his reply to CM Thackeray over the proposal of notifying the Speaker’s election mentioned that, “the latter has taken nearly eleven months to initiate the process of Speaker’s election and the Maharashtra Assembly Rules 6 and 7 have been amended drastically.
Sources in the government said that the decision on holding the election for the Speaker post will be taken on Tuesday morning after getting a legal opinion. The position fell vacant after senior Congress leader Nana Patole resigned to take up a party post (state party president) on February 4. Since then, deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal is holding charge of acting Speaker in the Lower House.
Koshyari’s letter stated
“You mentioned that the said rules have been framed under Article 208 of the Constitution. It would be pertinent to mention that the same Article clearly elucidates that ‘A House of the Legislature of a State may make rules for regulating, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, its procedure and the conduct of its business…’ I am personally pained and dismayed to see the intemperate tone and threatening tenor of your letter which has belittled and denigrated the highest Constitutional Office of the Governor. Consent for holding of this election under the amended rules which prima facie appear to be unconstitutional and illegal cannot be given at this stage. It is also noteworthy to mention that you have taken nearly eleven months to initiate the process of election of speaker and the Maharashtra Assembly Rules 6 and 7 have been amended drastically. Thus, the impact of these far-reaching amendments needs to be examined legally.
I have never questioned the prerogative of the House in the matter of its procedure/proceedings; however, I cannot be pressured to give consent to a process which prima facie appears to be unconstitutional and illegal as enshrined in Article 208 of the Constitution.”
BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhyay said, “This Maha Vikas Aghadi Government has failed on various fronts; they could not hold their grounds on constructive politics. To hide their flaws, they always looked for some of the other targets, sometimes they blame the centre for not allotting funds, sometimes central leadership and most of the time honourable governor because he refuses to come under the pressure of the ruling government’s undue tactics. This government is now creating a tussle over the election to the Speaker’s post, in the process, they are mortifying the Governor which is exposing their behavioural disorder. This is the first time in Maharashtra’s history the state governments are seen ill-treating the highest civilian post.”
BJP MLA Ram Kadam, “Ever since the tricycle government came to power, they have been disrespecting the Governor of the state on various occasions. The Maha Vikas Aghadi deliberately denied permission to Koshyari to use the state’s aeroplane to travel to Dehradun. This incident has maligned Maharashtra’s image. This time they wrote a threatening letter to him; such irresponsible behaviour is just not actable. Meanwhile, we are not in favour of holding elections without the Governor’s consent. It would not be appropriate to proceed with the election in view of the fact that 12 lawmakers of the party had been suspended for a year during the Monsoon Session held in July.”
Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai said, “The state government has made some suggestions to the Governor and looking at those recommendations, the Governor is expected to make decisions soon. We have been taking utmost care so that the position of the governor is not disrespected. Yesterday, the matter would have gone to extreme level but the MVA government chose to exercise restraint and it was decided that the Speaker election will be held with Governor’s permission.”
Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “I don’t blame the honourable Governor Koshyari, he is probably unhappy because he is under pressure from the central government. Probably the union home ministry is pressuring him not to nominate 12 persons recommended by the MVA government as members of the legislative council.”
Koshyari is still to clear the 12 names recommended by the state cabinet last year for an appointment to the legislative council. Out of the 78 members of the upper house, 12 are appointed every six years by the Governor on the recommendation of the state government.
State BJP leader Pravin Darekar said, “The chief minister needs to take a stand as the head of the state and not as head of a party. The Governor made no comment on powers of the legislature but sending him a letter with a warning tone and giving an ultimatum is dishonourable and has brought disgrace to the state. The sorrow expressed by the Governor was apparent.”
Congress state working president Arif Naseem Khan said, “Governor Koshyari is behaving like a leader of BJP while sitting on a Constitutional position. He has been creating obstacles for the state government. This time he did not allow holding of the Speaker’s election. This is despite the state government following all the rules and procedures. He should be recalled by the central government.”