Minutes after Maharashtra NCP president Jayant Patil reached Raj Bhavan on Sunday to submit an official communication informing the Governor’s office of his party’s decision to remove Ajit Pawar from the post of legislature party leader, BJP’s Ashish Shelar questioned the validity of the move.
Stung by Ajit’s overnight political coup, NCP president Sharad Pawar had on Saturday moved in quickly to expel him from the legislature leader’s post.
After ensuring that the MLAs who had accompanied Ajit for Saturday’s oath-taking ceremony were back in the party fold, senior Pawar had made 41 out of the party’s 54 MLAs adopt a resolution of expelling his nephew from the post and transferring all the rights and responsibilities that come with the position to the Patil. NCP sources said the exercise had been carried out in consultation with legal experts.
Following Patil’s visit to Raj Bhavan to submit the party’s resolution to the Governor’s office, Shelar said the “BJP is of the view that Ajit Pawar’s appointment as NCP’s legislature party leader was valid and the appointment of Jayant Patil in his place is invalid.”
According to information, Ajit himself had consulted senior lawyers in Mumbai on Saturday evening to weigh the same option. On Sunday when he took to Twitter for the first time after being sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit stressed that he was in the NCP and that the government that had been formed by an alliance between the BJP and the NCP.
According to sources, the hurdle of the anti-defection law is at the centre of the exercise by the three sides. While Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had sworn in Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister and Ajit as the Deputy Chief Minister on Saturday, the Fadnavis government still has to pass the floor test in the Vidhan Sabha.
The main bone of contention is whether Ajit has broken away from the NCP. As per the tenth schedule of the Constitution, which deals with provisions regarding the disqualification of a member of the House in case of defection, the only way the BJP-Ajit Pawar government can escape the anti-defection law is by projecting the NCP as a whole unit. According to sources, the person who holds the legislature party leader’s post in the NCP at the time of the confidence motion will hold the right to issue a whip to party legislators.
The Tenth Schedule states that “a member of the House belonging to a political party shall be disqualified if he votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any directions issued by the political party to which he belongs or by any person or authority authorised by it in this behalf, without obtained prior permission of the party or the person authorised by it”.
The government side will keep making a case that Ajit is the NCP’s legislature party leader. If the Speaker accepts this contention, then Ajit will have the right to issue the whip, while the Sharad Pawar camp will go out to prove otherwise.