Another deadlock awaits the Uddhav Thackeray government?

The political tension between Raj Bhavan and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is an open secret and a possible tussle seems to be brewing again.

Another deadlock awaits the Uddhav Thackeray government?

The Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is likely to make an official recommendation to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for the nomination of 12 candidates to the legislative council through governor’s quota. 

However, the three-party alliance is yet to decide on finalising 12 names for nomination to the legislative council on governor’s quota. The Maharashtra Legislative Council has a total of 78 members out of which 12 are nominated by the governor.

The term for all 12 nominated legislative council seats by the governor ends in June. Of these 12 seats, legislators on 10 seats have already retired on June 6 while the term of remaining two will expire on June 15.

Of the 10 nominated members from governor’s quota, two members from the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) - Rahul Narvekar and Ramrao Sakharam Vadkute - had already resigned from their post to join Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the Maharashtra assembly polls which were held in 2019. 

The major tussle

Earlier in April, the Maharashtra cabinet twice recommended Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s name for nomination to the legislative council on two vacancies from the governor’s quota. The two vacant seats belonged to the NCP.

Thackeray was constitutionally bound to get elected to the state legislature before May 27 as it is mandatory for a minister to be a member of the legislature for any six consecutive months or else he/she ceases to be a minister. The Shiv Sena chief took oath as Maharashtra CM on November 28, 2019.

Article 163 (1) of the Indian constitution states that the Governor has to act on the recommendations made by the council of ministers, especially in the executive matters. However, Governor Koshyari didn’t comply with the recommendations made by the cabinet then while acting in his discretion.

The article 163 (2) gives the governor power to exercise his function in his discretion if the matter is not executive or related to the law-making process. It has been stated that Koshyari’s refusal to nominate Thackeray to the upper house was as per the Representation of the People Act of 1951.

Section 151A of the above act describes that the vacant seat can’t be filled provided if the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year.” However, it is interesting to note that nowhere it is mentioned that this condition applies to 'nominations' to fill the vacancy instead of the by-election. 

It should be noted that Thackeray was expected to contest the legislative council polls but the Election Commission postponed it due to the COVID-19 situation. After a request from the MVA leaders and Governor Koshyari, the EC announced that polls will be held on May 21. However, Thackeray was elected unopposed to the upper house of Maharashtra legislature. 

Coming back to the possible tussle

The political tension between Raj Bhavan and the Uddhav Thackeray government is an open secret. Since Governor Koshyari played a role in uniting senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis and NCP leader Ajit Pawar, the Shiv Sena has been upset with Raj Bhavan and has even said that it shouldn’t become centre for political conspiracy. 

Koshyari has never shied away from talking about his RSS roots. Earlier, during his interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar raised the issued of Governors trying to create two power centres. Although Pawar didn’t mention Governor Koshyari. 

Therefore, it is difficult to say that the nomination process will be completed smoothly. The ruling alliance had already decided that each alliance partner will get four seats to the legislative council out of the total 12 which will be vacant this month. 

The internal sources informed that Congress has decided to not compromise any of its seats for the legislative council as it did during the legislative council polls last month. Congress had fielded two candidates for the MLC election on nine vacancies.

Congress, however, withdrew the candidature of Rajkishor alias Papa Modi, after Shiv Sena expressed that Thackeray wasn’t willing to contest the polls unless it was unopposed given the coronavirus situation. The NCP and Shiv Sena fielded two candidates each while Congress settled for only one. 

The sources also informed that top leaders from Congress and NCP have requested Thackeray to finalise the 12 names for their nomination to the Maharashtra legislative council.

No decision has been taken regarding this since the Chief Minister is busy handling COVID-19 situation and is assessing the damage caused by Cyclone Nisarga in the Konkan region, it said while adding that a meeting will be held soon. 

The term of Congress’ Janardhan Chandurkar, Anandrao Raghoji Patil and Hasnabanu Nizamuddin Khalife expired on June 6 while Anant Vithal Gadgil is set to retire on June 15 along with People’s Republican Party (PRP) leader Jogendra Laxmanrao Kawade. Similarly, NCP’s Khwaja Beg Mastan, Vidya Ajit Chavan, Prakash Suryabhan Gajbhiye and Jaganath Shinde retired on June 6. 

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