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Polls or Fresh Oath? Sena Readies Strategy Amid Fears of Political Crisis in Maharashtra Due to Guv Impasse

File photo of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.

File photo of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.

For Uddhav Thackeray to continue as the CM of Maharashtra, he will have to become a member of the legislature before May 28. That is when his six-month-old term ends.

Mumbai: As Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray fights the coronavirus menace in Maharashtra, the governor of the state has kept a sword hanging on his head. It has been a fortnight since the Maharashtra cabinet had recommended him to appoint Uddhav to one of the two vacant nominated positions in the Vidhan Parishad. The governor has not yet taken a call on it.

For Uddhav to continue as the CM of Maharashtra, he will have to become a member of the legislature before May 28. That is when his six-month-old term ends. Now, the Shiv Sena says it has its plans ready, but is confident that the governor will soon nominate Thackeray.

On April 9, a cabinet meeting was held under the leadership of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, in which a decision was made to recommend to the governor to nominate Uddhav as Member of the Legislative Council. There are two vacant seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council for which the governor can nominate two persons. The decision was officially sent to the governor. And it was considered to be only a matter of time before the he gave his nod. But it has been a fortnight since then. No word has come yet from Raj Bhavan. When asked, Raj Bhavan refused to comment on the queries sent by CNN News18.

Five days ago, senior Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut tweeted, “Raj Bhavan, Governor’s House, shouldn’t become center for political conspiracy. Remember! History doesn’t spare those who behave unconstitutionally.” He also tweeted that he was reminded of a shameless Governor named Ram Lal. (reference to a former Governor of Andhra Pradesh)

Though there is still over a month for Uddhav’s deadline to end, the anxiety in the ruling camp is growing. He had taken oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on November 28, 2019. As per the Constitution, he will have to become a member of either of the Houses within six months of assuming office.

Sena’s Strategy

“After the lockdown is lifted, the government can hold a special cabinet meeting and decide to call for elections of vacant legislative council seats. (These elections were slated this month, but were postponed due to pandemic). After the lockdown, the Election Commission will have to accept the state government’s decision, and will have to announce polls. The second option is to hold a special session of the legislature in view of the unprecedented situation of Corona. In that session, the members of the legislative council can nominate Uddhav Thackeray. Else, we will have to go to the court if the governor does not accept the cabinet’s decision. Another way is also that Uddhav Thackeray can resign on May 28, and can again take oath of office within a day or two. In that case, he gets another six months,” a Sena leader said.

But the problem with the last option is that court had previously held such a precedent as unconstitutional. And in the given political situation, it is unlikely that the BJP will not rake this up.

“The governor will have to okay the proposal sent by the cabinet. There is no alternative. If not, let things unfold in front of the people of the state. The backlash from people will be tremendous as the CM has people’s support. And it is a time when the government is fighting this grave battle against coronavirus. If they are willing to play politics out of it, we are willing to go to any extent. Let the country see,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader on the condition of anonymity.

“The BJP is fighting us while we are fighting Covid-19. Is this the time for such things? We are confident that the governor will accept the cabinet’s decision. He is bound by it constitutionally. There is no alternative. And even if he doesn’t, our plan is ready,” another leader said.

“It is increasingly clear that the Governor’s House is becoming a place for political conspiracies in states ruled by the opposition parties. There is still time to the end date. We are a democratically elected government which enjoys majority. So there is no threat to us. When the time comes, we will do whatever we have to do,” senior NCP leader and cabinet minister Nawab Malik said.

“I don’t see any issue in Uddhav Thackeray being appointed as a Member of the Legislative Council. I hope that the Governor will soon take a decision,” Congress leader and cabinet minister Ashok Chavan said. When asked about whether he sees any political conspiracy by the opposition in it, he said, “What the BJP can do, cannot be ruled out.”

Expert Speak

“In principle, in a parliamentary system, it is necessary that the governor follows what has been suggested by the cabinet. There is still a month ahead, so I hope that the governor will follow the cabinet decision. But speaking about constitutional propriety, I am not confident that under the current national dispensation, they will go by constitutional propriety,” said Professor Suhas Palshikar, an academic and political scientist. Experts say, if the governor does not listen to the cabinet, it will create a lot of bad blood, bitterness and constitutional crisis. “It will be very clumsy, chaotic and comical because then Uddhav Thackeray will have to resign, make someone else take charge, ask that person to resign and take over the reins again,” an academic said.

Everyone hopes this doesn’t lead to a constitutional crisis in Maharashtra at the time of a pandemic.