Supreme Court to rule on Maharashtra floor test shortly
The Supreme Court is on Tuesday expected to give its verdict on holding a floor test that will decide the fate of the two-day-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Maharashtra.
The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, who filed the petition on Saturday challenging Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari’s decision to invite Devendra Fadnavis to form the state government, on Monday evening claimed to have the numbers in an unprecedented show of strength.
Legislators from the three opposition parties publicly pledged their support to their Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi front at a Mumbai hotel as senior leaders claimed the support of 162 MLAs, well above the halfway mark of 145 in the 288-member assembly.
The three-judge bench of justice NV Ramana, justice Ashok Bhushan and justice Sanjiv Khanna heard the petition filed by the Sena, NCP and Congress seeking directions to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to hold an immediate floor test for the second day on Monday.
The three-party alliance is relying on five judgments delivered in the last two decades by the top court to secure an order for a floor test within 24 hours in the Maharashtra assembly.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the secretary to the governor, on Monday submitted details of the decision taken by Koshyari.
Mehta, the Centre’s second top law officer, said Koshyari invited Devendra Fadnavis to form the government only after the BJP leader produced letters of support from 11 Independent MLAs and NCP’s Ajit Pawar, whose letter had the signatures of 54 MLAs.
Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Fadnavis, told the judges that Ajit Pawar had shown him letters of support of 54 MLAs. Rohatgi said that Fadnavis went to the governor based on the letter given by Ajit Pawar.
Ajit Pawar, whose letter of support with signatures of 54 lawmakers formed the crux of this case, insisted that he was well within his powers to take the call he did.
Appearing for the Shiv Sena, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the top court that he has affidavits signed by 154 MLAs expressing support for Sena-NCP-Congress alliance.
Sibal also questioned the governor’s “great hurry” in revoking President’s Rule at 5.47am on Saturday and alleged that it was done only because the Sena, NCP and Congress announced their alliance the previous evening.
“What was the great hurry to revoke President’s Rule …If he waited for so long, could he not have waited for another 24 hours? What was the national emergency? The only reason it was done was because an alliance was announced at 7pm,” Sibal said.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the NCP, told the court that the letter containing signatures of NCP lawmakers was to elect Ajit Pawar as legislative party leader and not to join the BJP alliance.
“This is perjury. This is a fraud on democracy of the worst kind. Does a single NCP MLA say they are ready to go join BJP?” Singhvi, a senior Congress leader, asked.
The current tug of war in Maharashtra began early on Saturday when Governor Koshyari administered the oath of office to Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as the chief minister and deputy minister of Maharashtra.
The early morning swearing-in ceremony came after nearly a month of political uncertainty following a hung House after the Shiv Sena broke its more than 30 years’ alliance with the BJP over sharing power.
The BJP has 105 MLAs, the Sena 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44. Independents and smaller parties hold 29 seats.
Ajit Pawar claimed the support of all the NCP legislators, but Sharad Pawar has said his nephew’s decision was personal and that most of the MLAs had come back to the NCP’s fold.