With the Maharashtra Governor sitting on the state Cabinet’s recommendation that Uddhav Thackeray be nominated to the Legislative Council, the Chief Minister dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening.
Thackeray sought the Prime Minister’s cooperation in resolving the crisis, sources in New Delhi said. In Mumbai, sources in the Maharashtra government said the Chief Minister had expressed unhappiness over the “politics being played” over his nomination to the Upper House of the state legislature.
Thackeray, who took oath on November 28 last year, has, under Article 164(4) of the Constitution, six months to become a member of the state legislature. However, with the pandemic raging, a by-election cannot be held, and the only way to fulfill the requirement is for him to be nominated to the Upper House by the Governor.
“He (Thackeray) called the Prime Minister to talk about his nomination. He asked for help saying if it does not happen he would have to resign,” a source in Delhi said. According to this source, the PM told Thackeray that he would look into the matter and get more details.
In Mumbai, a senior Shiv Sena leader told The Indian Express: “Uddhavji discussed the current political uncertainty in the state with the PM. He expressed unhappiness over the politics being played over his nomination as MLC at a time when the state is fighting the coronavirus outbreak, and is standing with the Centre in the crisis.”
Asked how the PM had responded, the Sena leader said: “The PM agreed with the CM’s view. We now hope that his nomination will be cleared soon by the Governor.”
On Monday, the Maharashtra Cabinet reiterated the recommendation it had first made on April 9 after a meeting presided over by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. On Tuesday evening, a delegation of the Cabinet met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, and urged him to nominate Thackeray to one of the two vacant seats in the Council through the Governor’s quota.
Sources said the Governor was “non-committal” during his meeting with the leaders of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. This, the sources said, may have “forced” Thackeray to speak to the Prime Minister. A senior leader of the ruling coalition said that on Monday night, Thackeray had discussed with NCP leader Sharad Pawar three options going forward.
“The first is to write to the Election Commission requesting that the Legislative Council polls which were deferred by it earlier this month due to the lockdown, should be held. Since the election will be unopposed, we also want the EC to reduce the required 21 days’ period for holding the poll. The second option is to approach the Supreme Court to ask it to direct the EC to hold polls,” the leader said.
The third and last option would be for Thackeray to resign as Chief Minister, then call a legislative party meeting of all three coalition partners to elect him as leader, and form the government once again, the leader said.
“But”, the leader said, “we don’t think it will come to that. We are hopeful that the Governor will soon nominate Thackeray to the Council.”
A minister belonging to the Sena said that the chief secretary could write to the EC with a request that the polls be held at the earliest to avoid a constitutional crisis. “The issue is not about one political party, but of the government. The chief secretary is expected to write a letter to the EC soon,” the minister said.
In New Delhi, a BJP leader said that Thackeray had approached Modi directly because he knows that “it would be the Prime Minister who would be taking the final call on the party’s decision”. According to this leader, Thackeray wants the “BJP’s leaders in Maharashtra who are not willing to cooperate with the Shiv Sena to be directed by Modiji (to do so)”.
The leader said: “Not only did the Shiv Sena and its leadership betray the BJP (by refusing to let it form the government), it has been hostile to the party’s leaders since it came into power. Even during the COVID crisis, the government has not cooperated either with the local unit (of the BJP) or with the Centre.
“Why should the BJP help Uddhav Thackeray?” the BJP leader from Maharashtra said. “His party would earlier ask us, ‘when will our MLA become Chief Minister?’ Now they want us to tell them when their CM will become MLC!”
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