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Sunday, January 23, 2022

No nod from Koshyari on Speaker election, Maharashtra govt seeks legal opinion

The Speaker's post has been vacant since February, when Nana Patole of the Congress stepped down. Subsequently, Patole was appointed as state president of the Congress.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: December 28, 2021 7:58:57 am
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari (File)

A day after he received a delegation of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ministers, who apprised him that the government would hold the Speaker’s election on Tuesday, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari nixed the plan.

Congress leaders, however, insisted that the election for the Speaker post would be held on Tuesday, which is the last day of the winter session of the state legislature.

Sources in the government said that the decision on holding the election for the Speaker post will be taken on Tuesday morning after getting a legal opinion. “We have written to the Governor today saying give us date for election. Also, we have sought a legal opinion on the options available to the government in case the Governor doesn’t respond. The opinion will come on Tuesday morning, and then the decision will be taken accordingly,” a cabinet minister told The Indian Express.

The Speaker’s post has been vacant since February, when Nana Patole of the Congress stepped down. Subsequently, Patole was appointed as state president of the Congress.

The tussle over the election to the Speaker’s post is the latest one between the Governor and the MVA government, who have shared an uneasy relationship in the last two years over several friction points.

Sources said Koshyari has communicated to the government in a letter that he was examining the constitutionality of the amendments made by the rules committee of the state legislature last week to conduct the election for the Speaker’s post through voice vote instead of the secret ballot. The government had planned to hold the election for the Speaker’s post on December 28.

“The Governor has not mentioned (in his letter) whether the election should be held or not. He should have said it. So, the government has responded to the governor’s letter,” said another cabinet minister requesting anonymity.

Sources said the government has highlighted in its letter that the amendments are constitutional and the legislature has followed all procedures to make them. Also, it mentioned that the same practice is followed in the Lok Sabha and other states and that the Governor needs to act on the advice of the state cabinet, said sources.

On Sunday, a delegation comprising MVA ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Eknath Shinde and Chhagan Bhujbal called on Koshyari, urging him to grant the election programme recommended by the state cabinet for the Assembly Speaker’s post. As per the norms, the Governor has to give a date for the election of the Speaker post.

Last week, the rules committee of the Assembly, headed by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, amended the election process of the Speaker through voice vote instead of secret ballot.

However, the Opposition had objected to it, stating that rules of the Speaker’s election cannot be amended in the absence of the Speaker and called the MVA government the “most insecure government”.

State Congress president and legislator Nana Patole, however, asserted that the election for the Speaker would go ahead on Tuesday. “The election of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly will be held by voice vote. The government intends to hold the election tomorrow itself,” said Patole, speaking with mediapersons.

Stating that the legislature has the power to amend the rules, Patole said, “There is a similar process in the Lok Sabha. Maharashtra has adopted the same process of electing the Speaker by voice vote. The same tradition is followed in other states. In Maharashtra too, the election of the Chairman of Legislative Council is by voice vote. Therefore, the decision taken by the legislature is not unconstitutional.” Patole accused the BJP of playing politics and creating obstruction through the Governor.

Interestingly, on two occasions in February and July 2021, the governor had written to the MVA urging it to fill the Speaker’s post. In July, the Governor had written a letter to the CM, referring to the demands of the BJP delegation led by Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis, asking to take immediate steps to fill the Speaker’s post and other issues.

Besides, the Governor has not taken any decision yet on the list of 12 names, recommended by the state cabinet, to be nominated to the Upper House of the state legislature through the Governor quota. The list was handed over to the Governor by a delegation of MVA ministers on November 6, 2020.

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