Focus shifts to NCP whip, pro-tem speaker’s roles as floor test looms in Maharashtra
Pro-tem speaker of an Assembly is equipped to conduct a floor test if the Supreme Court asks him or her to do it, legislative experts said. They also added that if there is a conflict between the whip issued by the deputy CM-designate Ajit Pawar and the one issued by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Jayant Patil, then chances are high that the latter’s will prevail.
According to experts, the governor of Maharashtra has to first swear in a lawmaker as the pro-tem speaker of the Assembly whose primary responsibility would be to oversee the swearing in of all elected legislators, as well as that of the speaker. “Only after all the MLAs have sworn in as members of the House, the question of any floor test arises,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general P Sreedharan.
The government of Maharashtra is yet to be formed, though assembly election results were declared in October, as there are opposing claims over which coalition -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a faction of the NCP led by Ajit Pawar, on the one hand, and the Shiv Sena- Congress-NCP (led by chief Sharad Pawar), known as the Maha Vikas Aghadi, on the other -- will form it.
On Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar sought to assure the NCP legislators that they will not be disqualified if they don’t adhere to the whip to be issued by Ajit Pawar. “I assure you that you will not be disqualified and I take personal responsibility for the same. Ajit Pawar has acted against the party,” Pawar told a gathering of MLAs. There are reports that Ajit Pawar, who was sacked on Saturday as the party’s state legislature leader, may issue a whip asking NCP legislators to vote for the BJP.
Sreedharan and former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah said that a pro-tem speaker can take administrative decisions. “There have been many examples. But in this case, we have to see what the Court wants,” said Sreedharan.
The Supreme Court is expected to pass an order on Tuesday regarding the Maharashtra government’s formation.
In case, the Maha Vikas Aghadi decides to field their own candidate for the speaker’s election against a BJP sponsored candidate, an election is inevitable. “For such an election, pro-tem speaker would be the presiding officer. Initially, the voice votes will be taken and then, if required, a Division or voting through ballots would follow,” Amanullah clarified.
“Since the seat allotment of MLAs doesn’t happen so quickly, the division is likely to happen through semi-secret paper ballots. Since the ballots are filled up in the open assembly and handed over to officials for counting, full secrecy like the assembly of Lok Sabha votes can’t be guaranteed,” he added.
Sumit Kumar Ganguly, former joint secretary and consultant to the Rajya Sabha pointed out that technically, a legislative leader can’t issue a whip. “A whip or any such order seeking mandatory presence of the MLAs of the legislative party can’t be given by the legislative party head. It has to be given by the chief whip of a party.”
He also added, “Since the House is yet to meet, a party can easily change his floor leader through simple process. So, if the other side of the NCP decides to remove Ajit Pawar from the leadership position that is likely to be held valid.”