Nineteen days after Maharashtra’s fractured verdict produced no clear winner in the Assembly elections, the state was placed under President’s Rule Tuesday evening after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Union Cabinet’s approval of the Governor’s recommendation.
The Raj Bhavan move came shortly after the Shiv Sena, which parted ways with ally BJP over who should lead the government and tried unsuccessfully to stitch an alliance with support from rivals NCP and Congress, approached the Supreme Court, challenging the Governor’s decision not to grant it three more days to demonstrate its majority. The matter will be mentioned for hearing Wednesday.
The Congress called Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s move a “grave travesty” and “mockery” of the Constitutional process.
A day earlier, NCP leaders, after meeting Koshyari, said he had given them time until 8.30 pm Tuesday to express “willingness and ability” to form the government.
Indicating they were still open to the idea of Shiv Sena support, the Congress and NCP said they will first discuss among themselves before they can commence talks with the Sena over a possible coalition for government formation. In the Maharashtra House of 288 members, the BJP has 105, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44 MLAs.
Explained | President’s Rule in Maharashtra, what now?
BJP legislature party leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was unable to form a government, said: “Despite a clear mandate, a government could not be formed and President’s Rule had to be imposed. This is extremely unfortunate. I hope the state gets a stable government soon.”
In New Delhi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “The President has signed the proclamation declaring President’s Rule in Maharashtra. The state Assembly will remain in suspended animation for six months.”
Earlier in the day, Koshyari sent a report to the MHA, recommending President’s Rule in the state. With the BJP expressing its inability to form the government in the state, and the Shiv Sena and NCP unable to show him the numbers, the Governor decided to act. The NCP, MHA sources said, had sought three days to present letters of support but the Governor was not convinced that it was in a position to form the government. “He had already given all parties 15 days to form the government. He was of the view that no more time was required,” an official of the MHA said.
In a statement, the office of the Governor said: “The Governor of Maharashtra Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, having been satisfied that as the government of the State of Maharashtra cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution, has today submitted a report as contemplated by the provision of Article 356 of the Constitution.”
While the BJP has maintained a wait-and-watch policy — its leaders are saying the party will resume efforts to form a government after the Shiv Sena is done with its overtures to Congress and NCP — the Opposition has attacked the Governor.
“Governor Koshyari has committed a grave travesty of democracy and made a mockery of the Constitutional process in recommending President’s Rule in Maharashtra. Four grave violations of the Constitutional scheme, as expressed in SR Bommai judgment, stand out. In absence of any single party having majority in Maharashtra, Governor should have called the single largest pre-poll alliance i.e. BJP-Shiv Sena together and then the second largest post poll alliance i.e Congress-NCP,” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said.
“In case the Governor called individual parties, why did he not call the Congress? And above all, why the completely arbitrary allotment of time? 48 hours to BJP, 24 hour to Sena and not even 24 hours to NCP, before President’s Rule. This is unashamedly dishonest and politically motivated,” he said.
A window remains open
With the Assembly in suspended animation, it means the stakeholders — BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress — can approach the Governor any time with the required proof of support to prove majority on the floor of the House. The EC notification on the election will be treated as the new Assembly having been constituted.
The CPM too slammed the imposition of President’s Rule, saying the Maharashtra developments contravene the Supreme Court judgment in the Bommai case where it has been categorically stated that the only place where the claim to form a government can be established through a majority of the elected members is the floor of the House.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, in its petition to the Supreme Court before President’s Rule was imposed, said “the BJP acting through the Hon’ble Governor has penalized the petitioner for having severed ties with it by ensuring that the request for three days time is refused by the Hon’ble Governor”. It said it feared that “given the breakneck speed with which events have unfolded over the last couple of days, it is likely that the impugned action of the Hon’ble Governor… is a part of the well concerted plan of the BJP to invoke Article 356”.
It said that “any imposition of President’s Rule would also result in horse-trading by the BJP and to somehow cobble up a majority by using unconstitutional means” and that “in these circumstances any precipitative action by the Governor to enable the BJP to acquire the MLAs by poaching would be an anathema to democracy and cannot be countenanced”.
The Sena accused the Governor of rejecting its plea for three more days on November 11 in “hot haste” and said the “action… is violative of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution… ex facie arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious and a mala fide exercise of the power in order to ensure that” it “is precluded from getting a fair and reasonable opportunity of proving its majority on the floor of the House”. It said it must be given “reasonable time” to try and explore the possibility of forming a government. The plea said that the Sena, NCP and Congress “are in the process of evolving a common minimum programme and it is for this reason that three days’ time was sought from the Governor”.