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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Maha uncertainty leads to President’s rule

mumbai Updated: Nov 13, 2019 00:21 IST
Ketaki Ghoge & Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Ketaki Ghoge & Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Maharashtra plunged into its biggest political disarray as President’s rule was imposed in the state on Tuesday — the 19th day of a drama-filled impasse since the Assembly election results were declared.

President Ram Nath Kovind signed the proclamation based on a report sent by state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari recommending it. This is only the third time President’s rule has been implemented in the state. The Union cabinet had also recommended the same on the basis of the Governor’s report.

The communique from Raj Bhavan released on Tuesday afternoon stated: “The Governor of Maharashtra, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, having been satisfied that as the government of the state of Maharashtra cannot be carried out in accordance with the Constitution, has today submitted a report as contemplated by the provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution.”

Article 356 confers powers to the President to take control of state government after he is satisfied that a situation has arisen when a state government cannot be carried as per the Constitution.

With President’s rule in effect, the role of caretaker chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ends and the entire administration and governance of the state will be carried out by the Governor. The legislative powers of the state will be taken up by Parliament.

The Governor’s report was sent hours before the 8.30pm deadline given to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to express their “willingness” and “ability” to form the next government in Maharashtra.

Just ahead of the imposition of President’s rule, Shiv Sena approached the Supreme Court (SC), alleging Koshyari had acted in bad faith by refusing to accept the party’s claim to form a government, refusing to give it reasonable time to prove a majority in the 288-member House. Seeking an urgent hearing on the matter, the Sena, in its petition, accused the Governor of acting at the behest of the Central government. Refusing an urgent hearing, the SC registry asked Sena to mention the case before court on Wednesday.

After the BJP, with 105 seats, declined to form the government and the Sena (56 seats), since parting ways with the BJP over power sharing, failed to get letters of support from the NCP (54) and the Congress (54), Koshyari had on Monday night asked the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to express its “ability and willingness” to stake claim to form government in the state by 8.30pm on Tuesday. It is learnt that the governor took the call to recommend President’s rule after the NCP sought two more days to prove their ability to form the next government. NCP had sent an email to the Governor seeking additional 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the state Congress unit condemned the imposition of President’s rule and questioned why Congress was not invited to form the government.

“We condemn President’s rule. The Governor is expected to be non-partisan and should take all efforts to see that a government is formed. Article 356 is to be a last resort. While BJP got three days to form a government, Sena and NCP were given only 24 hours. Sena had sought additional time, but was denied and now even before the NCP’s 24 hours limit, President’s rule has been imposed,’’ said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.

Former CM Prithviraj Chavan questioned, “Why was Congress not called as part of the Congress-NCP pre-poll alliance to form the government?’’

Some constitutional experts also opined that the fourth party should not have been left out of the government formation process.

“If the three main political parties were invited, then a question can be raised as to why Congress was not called to stake claim to power. If all four parties had failed, the governor could have recommended President’s rule. BJP was given two days to prove their ability to form the government, while Sena and NCP were given 24 hours. I am not clear why BJP was given one more day,’’ said professor Ulhas Bapat, a constitutional law expert.

He added that nothing stopped political parties from staking claim to form the government during President’s rule.

“The rule can be withdrawn if a political party or post-poll coalition proves their ability to form the government. The president’s rule has to be ratified by the Parliament within two months and cannot be extended beyond one year,’’ he added.

The governor’s report reached North Block at noon on Tuesday. The Union cabinet, which typically meets every Wednesday, met soon after — at about 1.30 pm — to take a decision on the Governor’s recommendation to impose President’s rule.

No political party — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – is in a position to form a government in Maharashtra, Koshyari had written to the central government, preparing the ground for the 288-member-strong assembly to be placed in “suspended animation” and President’s rule to be imposed, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said.