Outsmarted and outmanoeuvred in the Maharashtra game of thrones, the Congress on Saturday hit out at the central government, accusing it of “subverting the Constitution” and “throttling democracy”.
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had acted as a “hitman” of Home Minister Amit Shah, the Congress said. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray described the BJP’s action as “shameless”. The Left parties and the Aam Aadmi Party too, strongly attacked the government.
However, there was a telling silence from the rest of the Opposition.
Governor Koshyari had behaved like a “hitman on the Constitution of India at the instance of a Home Minister who considers the Constitution as his captive instrument,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
“In the history of independent India, this may be the only occasion when in the dead of night, the Constitution was subverted, democracy was throttled, and the rule of law was mowed down by the Governor to surreptitiously induct an illegitimate government of the BJP. The Governor of Maharashtra, instead of protecting his constitutional duties, has acted as a hitman for Home Minister Amit Shah,” Surjewala said.
The CPM and the CPI accused the BJP of indulging in sordid manipulations to grab power.
“The political immorality of the BJP has reached its nadir. The clandestine manner in which the chief minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra have been sworn in shows the extent to which the BJP can stoop to grab power. This is in line with what they have done earlier in Goa, Karnataka, Northeastern states etc,” the CPM Politburo said in a statement.
“It is unfortunate that both the Constitutional authorities — President’s office and the Governor’s office — have been misused to achieve their political purpose,” the Politburo statement added.
The CPI said “what is happening in Maharashtra is massacre and mockery of democracy”.
“BJP has manipulated the situation with all powers at its command to grab power. Even before the people of Maharashtra could wake up from their sleep, the President’s Rule has been revoked and chief minister and deputy chief minister have been sworn in. The development raises several critical questions regarding the role of Governor and the misuse of the offices of Governor and President by BJP,” CPI general secretary D Raja said.
Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said: “The way the government was formed in Maharashtra is undemocratic and it disrespected the mandate of the people of the state.”
Surjewala described the swearing-in of Fadnavis as a “black chapter” in India’s history, and the BJP as a “contract killer” of democracy. “The BJP and Ajit Pawar have acted like Duryodhan and Shakuni to rip off and cheat a democratic mandate… They have actually betrayed the people,” Surjewala said.
He said the Congress would fight the “subversion of the Constitution” both legally and on the floor of the House by defeating the confidence motion.
Surjewala said the Governor was said to have met Fadnavis at 2 am on Saturday, and President’s Rule had been revoked at 5.47 am. “There is a process in the Constitution, and that process is that the Governor has to first satisfy himself that there is a government that can be constituted in accordance with the law, and people claiming majority had actually the real majority. We know that till today, the NCP has not been split under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law)… For that, two things are mandatory… a political party must split, and two-third of the legislators must walk away,” Surjewala said.
“Till today, we have not heard Ajit Pawar having made a single statement that the Nationalist Congress Party has split. In absence thereof, how could the Governor consider any letter? Unless and until 36 legislators went to the Governor, post declaration of split of NCP and said ‘we hereby have constituted a separate political party’, how could the Governor accept that mandate?
“So”, Surjewala said, “the majority was only possible by way of split in NCP, but a split in NCP never happened under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, 36 legislators never gave a representation in writing, but the Governor never verified the signatures of the each legislator, either by way of an affidavit or, by way of a personal attendance of each legislator before the Governor, then how could the Governor presume that Fadnavis has the majority?”
The NCP has 54 MLAs in the House.
Surjewala also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah to reveal the time at which the Union Cabinet met on Friday night, which ministers were present, and exactly when the Cabinet recommended the removal of President’s Rule.
In Mumbai, Uddhav Thackeray said: “The shameless game going on under the garb of democracy has been seen by the country. It has been made clear that they neither want an opposition party nor an ally or competitive leaders within the BJP. This is a fight based on ego.”
Referring indirectly to Fadnavis’s “I-will-come-back” election campaign, Thackeray said: “After seeing all this, I feel that rather than saying ‘I will come again’, he should have said, ‘I will not go’, and used Fevicol to stick to his chair.”
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said it was a “black day” in Maharashtra’s history. “This is a mockery of the Constitution. There is a limit to shamelessness, but the BJP has crossed it,” Patel said.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and MP, said that NCP leader Ajit Pawar had backstabbed the Sena by joining hands with the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra. “The state will never forgive Ajit Pawar for this act,” Raut said. “Our information is that Ajit Pawar was blackmailed into joining the BJP government.”