SC verdict in, Maharashtra trust vote focus shifts to next pro-tem speaker
The Supreme Court has ordered Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to face the trust vote in the Maharashtra assembly by tomorrow evening after all the legislators are sworn-in. A special bench of three judges ordered that the proceedings should be telecast live and prohibited the state assembly from holding the vote via a secret ballot. The judges, who relied on seven previous verdicts including one dating back to the 1990s, also ordered that the trust vote would be conducted by a temporary speaker, or pro-tem speaker.
The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, which have formed the coalition that hopes to soon move in to stake claim, have welcomed the top court ruling. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Chandrakant Patil signalled that his party was also confident of a win.
Public posturing apart, both sides have set up a string of meetings to finalise their strategy and reach out to their legislators. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar headed to his new boss Chief Minister Fadnavis’ official residence Varsha for a quick round of meetings. Fadnavis will later also meet his legislators at a 9 pm meeting.
Nationalist Congress Party leaders, on the other hand, have launched an outreach mission to touch base with legislators who are not happy with the status quo and are perceived to be open to supporting Ajit Pawar.
In the assembly, the first step for conducting the floor test would be the appointment of a pro-tem speaker. The convention is that the senior-most MLA is appointed as the temporary speaker to administer oath to the MLAs till a speaker is appointed but there have been many deviations in the past. The pro-tem speaker to be appointed by governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari later today has been mandated to conduct the trust vote as well.
“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.
Legal experts 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 directive will prevail.
The NCP on Tuesday tried to reduce the chances of the assembly secretariat counting Ajit Pawar as the party leader authorised to order MLAs to vote in favour of the Devendra Fadnavis government by sending a formal communication that Jayant Patil was the man in charge.
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”.
Appointment of pro-tem Speaker
Congress legislator Balasaheb Thorat is the senior most member of the house and is eligible for the responsibility. Thorat is the only one among the 288 members elected in last month’s elections to be serving his eighth term.
A Pro-tem Speaker is appointed by the Governor from the three-four names recommended by the chief minister from the names suggested to him by the assembly secretariat. But Congress leaders do not expect the governor to pick Thorat for the assignment.
Nationalist Congress Party’s Dilip Walse-Patil, Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar, Congress’ KC Padvi, BJP’s Kalidas Kolambkar and Babanrao Pachpute are serving their seventh term, while the Speaker of the previous Assembly and BJP leader Haribhau Bagde and NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal and BJP’s Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil are serving their sixth term.
The Fadnavis government is expected to recommend the names of its party’s MLAs. Of the 10 senior leaders, Kalidas Kolambkar, Babanrao Pachpute, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Haribhau Bagde could make it to the list.
“Although the Pro-tem Speaker has limited powers compared to the Speaker, the BJP government would prefer its own MLA to administer oaths to the newly-elected MLAs and hold the floor test. The Fadnavis government is expected to recommend the names of four MLAs and may want outgoing Speaker Haribhau Bagde to be appointed. Bagde was in the chair when the Fadnavis government passed its confidence motion by voice vote in 2014,” said an official from the state legislature.