X Close

Maharashtra political crisis and Governor's role


NEW DELHI:  In the event that rebel Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde and his band of legislators, holed up in a Guwahati hotel, win the battle of wits and pull the plug on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s role will be crucial. As things are poised, it’s a just a question of when the ball lands in his court. So what are the options before the Governor? Here’s a look at the various possibilities:

Guv ‘kingmaker’
Governor’s role comes into play if the rebel MLAs write to him withdrawing support to the MVA govt led by Uddhav Thackeray. The Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction can approach the Governor and claim the support of the BJP. Each defected MLA will have to hand in individual letters of support

Koshiyari will have to decide whether the Maharashtra Vikas Agadi (MVA) government led by Uddhav Thackeray commands the numbers to remain in power. He can ask the government to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly

Can the Governor dissolve the State Assembly?

  •  Cabinet of a government with doubtful majority cannot recommend dissolution of House; Supreme Court has ruled that floor test is the best way to test majority
  •  The Governor can use his discretionary power and may choose not to dissolve the Assembly — even if CM Uddhav Thackeray seeks the same — if he is convinced that the council of ministers, in whose name the recommendation is made, does not enjoy the confidence of the House
  •  In Madhya Pradesh, then CM Kamal Nath had recommended dissolution after the defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia and two dozen-odd MLAs to BJP, but the Governor called for a floor test instead

Constitution says
Governor can summon the House under Article 175(2) and call for a floor test for the government to prove its majority

If the Assembly is in session, then the Speaker can call for the floor test. If the Assembly is not in session, then the Governor can allow the Speaker to call for a floor test under his residuary powers under Article 163

Guv’s mandate
If the breakaway Shiv Sena faction writes to the Governor withdrawing support to the MVA govt, Koshyari can call for a floor test

If the MVA lost majority in the floor test and the rebel group subsequently stakes claim along with the BJP, the Governor can invite them to form govt and then ask for a floor test to prove majority

Both Governor Koshiyari and CM Uddhav have tested Covid-positive. That means neither can attend any public function until they heal

Speaker’s role
If the event of floor test, the Speaker will have an important role to play

Maharashtra Assembly currently does not have a Speaker. Nana Patole of Congress was originally elected Speaker, but he quit after being made state Congress chief. No Speaker elected since then primarily because of Cong delay

Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal of NCP now comes into focus. Zirwal’s role becomes crucial:
 If rebel MLAs do not resign but vote against the party whip  Unless they resign or vote against whip, they cannot be disqualified   In such a situation, Zirwal will decide about disqualification

Koshiyari VS Uddhav

The MVA govt has had a turbulent relationship with the B S Koshyari-led Raj Bhavan: Major run-ins:

  •  Uddhav’ Legislative Council nominations lay pending with Kodhiyari for nearly six months and the CM had to finally call the Prime Minister to resolve the issue
  •  In late 2020, Koshyari and Uddhav had an acerbic exchange of letters over the issue of reopening places of worship after the Covid-19 lockdown.  Governor asked the Chief Minister if he had “become secular”. The latter retorted  that he didn’t need Koshyari’s certificate on Hindutva
  •  Another conflict was over the govt’s nomination of 12 persons to the Council. The Governor sat on the list
  •  Tussle over election to the Assembly Speaker’s post. The Thackeray Government amended rules to hold the election by voice vote rather than a secret ballot to avoid any sudden surprises. But the Governor sat on request for the date of election