From being locked in a meeting with the Congress and Shiv Sena till late Friday evening, to taking oath with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis early Saturday morning, the dramatic turnaround showcased by NCP leader Ajit Pawar was helped by the use of a special Section in the Union government’s transaction of business rules. The rule allows for revocation of President’s Rule without Cabinet approval if the Prime Minister “deems it necessary”.
Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961, allows the PM to depart from laid down norms at his discretion. Titled “Departure from Rules”, Rule 12 says, “The Prime Minister may, in case or classes of cases permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.”
The Cabinet can later give post-facto approval for any decision taken under Rule 12.
Rule 12 is not ideally used to arrive at very key decisions by the government. However, it has been used in matters such as withdrawal of an office memorandum or signing of MoUs in the past. The last key decision taken through invocation of Rule 12 was re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on October 31.
The proclamations issued by the President that day, dividing various districts between the two Union Territories, were issued under Rule 12. The Cabinet gave post-facto approval to the same on November 20.
Once Governor Koshyari had been informed that the BJP had the numbers to form an alliance government with the NCP, and had verified the claim, sources said, his office worked overnight to prepare the necessary recommendation for revocation of President’s rule. By 5.47 am Saturday, a proclamation declaring revocation of President’s rule in Maharashtra was published in the government gazette (indicating it had been signed by the President even earlier).
This cleared the way for a 7.50 am swearing-in of the new chief minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra.
The invocation of Rule 12 also indicates that even top leaders in the BJP were not aware of the impending move, and many key ministers were, in fact, out of Delhi and not available for a Cabinet meeting. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Lucknow after returning from Singapore, while Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had gone to Nagpur after addressing a rally in Ranchi and is still in Vidarbha. Both are members of the BJP Parliamentary Board.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad maintained that Ajit Pawar, being the leader of the NCP legislative party in Maharashtra, had the legitimate right to align with any party. “It is very clear that Devendra Fadnavis is the leader of the BJP legislative party and Ajit Pawar is the leader of the NCP legislative party in Maharashtra. That is why it is perfectly legitimate for the Governor to call the parties which claim they have the majority.”
Asked about revocation of President’s Rule in the early hours of Saturday, without Cabinet approval, Prasad said, “All decisions have been taken after due process of law. There is a provision for ex-post-facto approval of the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister has special powers. Everything is in order.”