The state cabinet decided Thursday to recommend Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s name to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for being nominated as a member of the state Legislative Council from the Governor’s quota. The decision was taken to avoid a constitutional crisis due to the deferment of the legislative council polls by the Election Commission (EC) in the wake of the nationwide lockdown.
As per Article 164 (4) of the Indian Constitution, any minister who is not a member of the House needs to get elected to the Legislative Assembly or Council within six months of appointment.
Uddhav, who was sworn in on November 28 last year, has time till May 27 to get elected to the state legislature, failing which, he would have to step down as the CM. The cabinet too would have to resign.
According to Shiv Sena leaders, the party’s plan was to get Thackeray elected to the legislative Council as the nine seats will fall vacant on April 14. But the EC has deferred the polls till further notice.
“It doesn’t seem that the polls will be held anytime soon considering the coronavirus crisis. Since the two seats from the Governor’s quota are vacant, the cabinet unanimously decided to recommend Thackeray’s name for one of the seats,” said Ajit Pawar, Deputy Chief Minister, who chaired the cabinet meeting Thursday.
Sources said Thackeray didn’t attend the meeting on the insistence of his cabinet colleagues as the decision was related to his nomination.
NCP legislators Rahul Narvekar and Ramrao Vadkute, who were nominated to the legislative Council through Governor’s quota, quit the party and resigned as legislators in the run-up to the Assembly polls last year. In December, the names of NCP’s Shivajirao Garje and Aditi Nalawade were sent by the government for their nomination, but they have not yet been approved by Governor. The term of these two seats ends on June 6.
Sena leaders said they are confident that the Governor will approve Thackeray’s name, as it has been recommended by the state cabinet. “As per the convention, the Governor goes by recommendation of the state cabinet. We have also studied the recommendations sent by the other states to their Governors during emergency or crisis. After studying all the aspects, it was decided to go for the cabinet recommendation for Thackeray’s name. Now, the ball is in Governor’s court,” said a Sena minister, requesting anonymity, adding that they will wait for a week for the Governor’s response.
The minister added if the Governor rejected the cabinet’s recommendation, his action would be seen from the political perspective. “Then, we may go to court or the EC… Also, we can approach the EC stating to hold the polls as there is enough time for it,” the minister added.
Sources said it was part of the strategy to corner Governor, who has not yet approved NCP’s two names for their nomination through Governor’s quota. “Because, had there been a BJP government in the state, Koshyari would have immediately approved the two names. So, it was needed to highlight his conduct. The option of Governor nomination wad discussed between top leaders of NCP and Sena immediately after the COVID -19 cases started increasing in the state in last month. So, we feel that the recommendation will be approved soon,” said a senior Sena leader.
Incidentally, the cabinet’s move came a day after NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut objected to the Governor giving instructions directly to the government officials, rather than going through the state government, stating that it was creating two power centres. Pawar, who raised the matter at a video-conference meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday, however, did not refer to the Governor’s name.
“It is heard that in some states, instructions are being issued by the Honorable Governor directly to the bureaucracy. Though Hon. Governor has the authority to do so, the instructions have to be routed through Hon. @CMOMaharashtra and the Chief Secretary’s office in order to avoid multiple power centres and probable hindrances in the coordination of administration,” Pawar tweeted Wednesday.
On March 28, Koshyari had met all divisional commissioners of the state and asked them to ensure that adequate steps were taken by district collectors to ensure the housing and food arrangements of migrant labourers. On March 30, he had called for a review meeting at Raj Bhavan, which was attended by Thackeray as well as all senior bureaucrats, to review the state’s preparations to tackle the crisis. On April 6, Koshiyari had again held a review meeting of all senior bureaucrats and district collectors.
“The Governor is under his right to hold such meetings, however, holding frequent meetings at the time of crisis and giving orders to bureaucrats without taking ministers into confidence seems akin to infringing on the rights of an elected government,” a senior cabinet minister said.
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