Opposition parties staged a walkout on the first day of the winter session on Monday protesting against the reinduction of NCP leader Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister and his appointment as leader of the house, stating it was not a constitutional post and his appointment was hence illegal.
Once the upper house assembled, chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh took up the listed business of the house, which included introduction of new ministers.
Raising an objection to the announcement of deputy chief minister Pawar as leader of the house, leader of the Opposition in the legislative council Vinod Tawde said the post of deputy CM was not constitutional, citing a ruling of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court, and that Pawar’s appointment was hence illegal.
In the assembly, Opposition leader Eknath Khadse said there was no scope for creating the post of deputy chief minister in view of the high court verdict.
Jayant Patil of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWD) supported Tawde and demanded that the announcement of the leader of the house be postponed, which received support from the entire opposition.
Patil cited the arrangement in the Lok Sabha where the Prime Minister is not considered a leader of house and hence, another minister is appointed as leader of house. Pawar could not be announced as leader of the house as he had been appointed to an unconstitutional post, he said.
The Opposition’s objection held up the reinduction and subsequent appointment of Pawar as leader of the house for about half-an-hour. Later, the chairman overruled the objections, citing a judgement of Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court on July 18, 1998, where, in paragraph 18, the objections to the post of the deputy chief minister were overruled.
The chairman said that Chhagan Bhujbal held the post of deputy chief minister three times, Vijaysingh Mohite-Patil was the deputy chief minister twice, and RR Patil and even BJP leader Gopinath Munde had held the post. Hence, he allowed the parliamentary affairs minister to announce Pawar as leader of the house.
Unsatisfied with the chairman’s ruling, the Opposition in the council trooped out of the house, following which the chairman read out chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s letter about the appointment of Ajit Pawar as the deputy chief minister.
In the Assembly, Khadse, too, demanded the proceedings be stopped as he felt it was disrespectful to the house when a person like Pawar was given such a post. Bala Nandgaonkar of the MNS demanded the house be adjourned.
However, RR Patil countered the opposition’s stance that the post was unconstitutional saying even the NDA, during its rule in Maharashtra, had appointed BJP leader Gopinath Munde to the post. Bhujbal, who was also a deputy CM earlier, made light of Opposition charges saying many states including the NDA-ruled Bihar has a deputy chief minister (Sushil Modi), from the BJP.
Maharashtra has a long tradition of appointing leaders to the post of deputy CM, right from Nashikrao Tirpude (Congress), Ramrao Adik and Vijaysingh Mohite-Patil, he said.