The BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra won a crucial confidence motion on Wednesday through a voice vote that the Shiv Sena described as "strangling democracy" and the Congress called "a black day".
The BJP, which has 121 MLAs in the 288-member assembly, passed the test to prove its majority through a simple "Aye" from legislators supporting the 13-day-old minority government, though their voice got muffled in the din raised by the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
Speaker Haribhau Bagde suspended five Congress legislatorsfor two years after they allegedly heckled governor C Vidyasagar Rao who was injured in the melee as protests inside and outside the assembly turned ugly.
The BJP government needed to prove its majority because it was 22 short of the halfway mark in the assembly. Having snapped its 25-year alliance with the Shiv Sena, it didn’t have the 63 MLAs of its former ally to bail it out.
Bagde, who was elected unopposed earlier in the day, called the voice vote valid and rejected the opposition’s demand for a poll.
"The house should be run as per rules and the Constitution should not be trampled upon. The new government is strangling democracy. We sought division but the trust motion was passed by voice vote," said opposition leader Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena.
The Congress questioned the legitimacy of the trust vote and said it would approach the governor with the request to ask the Fadnavis government to prove its majority by a poll.
"This is the darkest day in the history of the Maharashtra assembly. We will not allow the house to function under this minority government," said former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam said the BJP government’s act was against the spirit of the Constitution and threatened to take legal recourse. "Vidhan Sabha stands tarnished today. A division would have made it clear whether they have the support of the majority of MLAs. The confidence motion has not been passed."
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Bagde rubbished the opposition’s claims, saying due process was followed.
"Congress and Shiv Sena did not ask for a poll (division of votes) at the appropriate time. Since Congress has always been in power it has forgotten the rules about when to ask for division of votes," Fadnavis told reporters
All this while MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which had committed its support to the Fadnavis government, sat quietly and watched the opposition demand a division. The division of votes, which according to convention is held with legislators voting for or against a motion, was ruled out by the Speaker.
The BJP had said it had direct and indirect support of 140 MLAs but needed some legislators to vote for it or abstain in the event of a poll.
Since there was no clarity on which way the NCP voted, the speaker’s move was seen as an attempt to save the BJP the embarrassment of publicly going along with Sharad Pawar’s party that has 41 MLAs, sources said.
Despite the day’s developments, the BJP indicated in the evening that it was still open to an alliance with the Sena. Fadnavis told HT that he has plans to expand his cabinet before the winter session of the legislature begins in Nagpur on December 8.
Watch:Rajiv Pratap Rudy says mandate of people has been reflected in trust vote