Governor refuses nod for Speaker’s election
he ongoing battle between the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari intensified on Monday
MUMBAI: The ongoing battle between the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari intensified on Monday after the latter withheld his assent for the legislative assembly speaker’s election scheduled for Tuesday.
To prevent cross-voting from its ranks, the MVA government had, last week, amended the rules for the Speaker’s election by allowing open voting instead of a secret ballot. MVA leaders felt this could eliminate chances of sabotage as legislators that vote against the party whip stand to face disciplinary action and even get disqualified.
Flouting the ‘whip’ issued by the party can lead to the party approaching the Speaker for the disqualification of the member from the house under the Maharashtra legislative assembly rules, which in turn have their basis in the Representation of People Act, 1951, and the tenth schedule of the Constitution (also called as the anti-defection law).
On Sunday, ministers Balasaheb Thorat (Congress), Chhagan Bhujbal (Nationalist Congress Party) and Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) met Koshyari and requested him to approve the state cabinet’s recommendation for the election and confirm the date. However, the Governor refused to sign his approval on Monday, stating he will first examine the legality of the amendment. The leading opposition party, BJP, had objected to these amendments.
A senior minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the governor had replied stating that the decision to amend the system of voting was “unconstitutional” but that he would examine it legally. “This is contradictory. How can he call it unconstitutional and also say he will get the provision examined legally,” the minister said. The government had written back to Koshyari stating that the decision was legally sound and pointedly asked the governor whether he wanted them to hold the elections or not. “The legislature has its own authority and no one can encroach on them,” the minister said.
“This is an unprecedented stand-off,” a senior Congress legislator said. “Whether the government wants to hold the elections depends on whether Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is willing to brazen it out, though our decision to go ahead with the polls may be challenged in court.”
The MVA had planned to announce the election schedule on Monday with actual voting on Tuesday, the last day of the ongoing winter session. However, on Monday morning, Koshyari replied he will examine the constitutional validity of the amendment. The state government in turn, sought legal opinion, and wrote back to Raj Bhavan stating that these changes were legally valid. The MVA said it is determined to conduct the election on Tuesday.
Former Speaker and current state Congress chief Nana Patole said, “The question is, is the governor pushing the BJP agenda.” He said he felt that the speaker would be elected through voice vote on Tuesday. He added that the changes in the type of voting reflected those in Parliament and other legislatures.
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut too derided Koshyari, and added that he was yet to decide on the state government’s recommendation on the nomination of 12 legislators to the legislative council.
Former minister and senior BJP legislator Chandrakant Patil said the governor had certain privileges. “Now, you (the government) have changed the rules and have asked him to confirm the dates. But he has given the dates twice under the Constitution, but you did not conduct the elections. Actually, not conducting elections on the date given by the governor is an insult to the both the governor as well as the Constitution. President’s Rule can be imposed on this ground,” he charged.
Constitutional expert Ulhas Bapat said the decisions taken by the state cabinet and the chief minister were binding on the governor. “…it is clear that as per Article 163 of the Constitution, the governor cannot go against the decision of the chief minister and state cabinet,” he said. “The governor is supposed to take the decision as soon as possible.”
The election has been necessitated following Patole’s resignation from the post and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, Congress legislators Amin Patel, Sangram Thopte and Suresh Warpudkar are said to be the frontrunners. There are chances that a Congress minister may be asked to quit and be fielded for this position, with Patole replacing him in the cabinet.
Until late Monday evening, there was no official comment from Raj Bhavan, and the ongoing winter session ends Tuesday. If the election is not held on Tuesday, the ruling coalition will have to wait till the next session of the legislature which is expected to be held in March next year or convene a special session.