WITH THE Maharashtra government expressing displeasure over his controversial remark seeking separate statehood for drought-stricken Marathwada, Advocate General Shrihari Aney is likely to submit his resignation to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Sources said Aney’s resignation would be forwarded to the Governor along with comments from the government.
Aney (65), who took charge as Maharashtra AG six months ago, caused major embarrassment to the Fadnavis government by advocating statehood for Marathwada at a public function in Jalna on Sunday. Stating that grave injustice had been done to the region, he said the people of Marathwada should fight for While a senior minister in the cabinet said action would be taken against Aney for his remarks suggesting division of the state, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The advocate general’s statement on Marathwada statehood cannot be endorsed by the government. As the AG, he represents the state government and should have restrained from expressing his personal views in public.”
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While Fadnavis had backed Aney in December 2015 when the latter spoke in public in favour of a separate Vidarbha state, highly placed sources said the government could no longer provide “safe passage” to him.
Aney’s controversial remark created a major uproar in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council Monday, with the Congress, the NCP and the Shiv Sena joining hands demanding his immediate sacking. The repeated disruptions led to adjournment of the both Houses for the day. The Opposition and Sena leaders threatened not to allow work unless Aney was divested of the constitutional post.
“I will make a detailed statement in the Assembly and the Council on Tuesday,” said Fadnavis.
It would be an ideal situation if Aney tenders his resignation, with the entire Opposition and also the Sena having threatened to move a resolution in both Houses Tuesday seeking his ouster.
Since it is a constitutional post, the government does not want any confrontation. Politically, Aney’s stepping down will help the BJP-led government avert any conflict with constituent party Shiv Sena, which is most vocal against him.
Aney being a legal luminary, it also does not want an unceremonious exit for him.
Insiders in the government said Aney would be given a chance to place his views along with the context in which he made the statement. “But there is no question of providing him another opportunity to continue,” said a source.
A senior cabinet minister said, “It was conveyed to the AG that his remark on Marathwada has landed the government in trouble. While conveying that nobody questioned his legal expertise, commitment and integrity, Marathwada statehood, which was never in the jurisdiction of the state, should not have been uttered by him in public. On the contrary, because of his legal expertise, the state saved Rs 6,000 crore on various legal battles in the court, which he had skillfully tackled in favour of the government.”
Earlier in the day, NCP leader and former Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil said in the Assembly, “The Constitution clearly defines the duty and role of the AG. When he represents the state government, resorting to such controversial remark that is dividing the state is dangerous.”
While Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik demanded his “immediate sacking”, Sena minister Ramdas Kadam said party chief Uddhav Thackeray had demanded his removal from AG post. “We will not work in the government until action is taken,” Kadam warned.
Other Sena ministers said they had a meeting with Fadnavis, adding that the CM had “promised to take the right action”.
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil wondered how the AG could speak on “dividing the state”. Similar angry sentiments were expressed in the Council led by Opposition leader Dhananjay Munde and others.
This is not the first time that Aney’s views have landed the government on the backfoot. In December 2015, he had triggered a row after he spoke in favour of statehood for Vidarbha at a public function in Nagpur during the Winter Session. It had evoked sharp reactions from the Opposition and the Shiv Sena who wanted his resignation.
Fadnavis had then come out in support of Aney. He had said the decision related to separate statehood solely came under the jurisdiction of Parliament and the Union government. Fadnavis had bailed him out on that occasion by stating, “The remarks were Aney’s private views and not in the capacity as AG.”
In February this year, while representing the state in court, Aney had remarked: “The government is afraid of losing the paltry sum of Rs 30,000 to fraudulent claims. It does not realise that no man will try to defraud the state by claiming his own life. But then we cannot expect officials to understand the farmer’s plight while sitting inside air-conditioned offices in Mumbai.”
Aney is from Fadnavis’s hometown Nagpur and was the latter’s mentor when he grated in law.