MVA may ignore Governor Koshyari’s order, delay Speaker’s election
Though Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari has asked the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to hold an election for the vacant post of Assembly speaker, the government may delay this process, opting instead to continue with the deputy speaker conducting business in the house. The ruling coalition is likely to convey this to the Governor soon and remind him about the appointment of the 12 names recommended for the legislative council. The nominations for the legislative council are pending with the Governor since November 2020, when the names were submitted to Koshyari. The budget session of the state legislature begins from March 1.
After Nana Patole resigned on February 4 to become Maharashtra Congress chief, the post of Assembly speaker is up for election. The election will require a show of strength by MVA and reveal the number of members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) who are with them. If the ruling parties fail to win the election, the government will collapse. MVA got 169 votes in the house of 288 in November 2019. This time round, MVA has been planning to get about 175 votes but with the surge in Covid-19 cases, attendance is expected to drop. MLAs may have to undergo mandatory testing before the session begins.
“At least four of our ministers have tested positive [for Covid-19] over the past week. If more legislators are found infected before the session, the situation won’t be good. In such a scenario, holding an election for the post of the speaker will cause unnecessary embarrassment,” said a Shiv Sena minister on condition of anonymity. “We have a deputy speaker who can conduct business in the absence of the speaker. In Madhya Pradesh, which is a Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]-ruled state, the deputy speaker has been running the house for more than a year now,” the minister added.
With the Governor having asked the state to elect the Assembly speaker last week, the MVA government is expected to send a reply informing the Governor that the election would be held at an appropriate time. “We will also remind him about the appointment of the 12 names recommended by the state Cabinet for nomination to the legislative council. The posts are lying vacant since November 2020, depriving the recommended leaders. If the Governor is so keen on parliamentary procedures while asking about the election to the post of speaker, he should first follow it,” the minister said.
This is expected to lead to more friction between Raj Bhavan and the MVA in coming days and may be intensified by the BJP in the Opposition. BJP leaders have been questioning MVA over issues like cutting the budget session short; allegations of corruption against forest minister Sanjay Rathod; disconnection of power supply to domestic consumers; farmers’ issues, and more.
Leader of Opposition and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said the state government is using Covid-19 to avoid contentious issues. “While all political events are being held without any hurdles, why is the budget session being cut short to 10 days? Why is the state government scared to debate on issues of interest to the people and corruption cases against ministers? The business the government has planned for the session is not according to the rules and hence we walked out of the business advisory committee [BAC] meeting today,” Fadnavis said on Thursday.
Held on Thursday, the BAC meeting was to decide on the duration of the session and was attended by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, Fadnavis and other Opposition leaders like Pravin Darekar. The state government has decided to hold the session between March 1 and 10. The budget will be presented on March 8.
“In the wake of the upsurge in the Covid-19 cases, the session has been curtailed to 10 days. There will be debate on the budget for two days after it’s presented on March 8. There is no question of running away from debate, the walkout staged by the Opposition was after the BAC meeting got over,” said parliamentary affairs ministers Anil Parab.