The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress on Saturday moved the Supreme Court, challenging Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party to form the government in Maharashtra early this morning.
The parties had sought an urgent hearing tonight, but the court has agreed to hear the petition at 11.30 am on Sunday. At present, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde is in Tirupati with his family members, and is scheduled to be there till Sunday, according to Bar and Bench. The petition also asked for the floor test to be done within 24 hours so as to prevent any further horse-trading.
On Friday night, the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress seemed set to stake claim to form government under Shiv Sena President Udhhav Thackeray’s leadership. However, in a shocking turn of events, Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as chief minister around 8 am after President’s Rule was withdrawn at 5.47 am as a breakaway faction of the Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar backed it. Ajit Pawar, who is Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar’s nephew, has been appointed deputy chief minister. Both Fadnavis and Pawar have been named as respondents in the petition.
In the petition, the three parties said Koshyari’s decision was a “mockery of the high office of the governor”. They accused the BJP of resorting “to political machinations” in order to install an unconstitutional government. The parties said all of their legislators were behind them except Ajit Pawar. At least seven Nationalist Congress Party leaders who attended the oath-taking ceremony in the morning have returned to the party fold, according to a news report.
Questioning why the governor was in a hurry to allow the BJP to form the government, the three parties said: “The honourable governor was duty bound to study the claim if any made by Shri Devendra Fadnavis, more so when admittedly the previous night all the three political parties commanding a strength of 154 MLAs had categorically stated that they will be staking claim to form the government.”
The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress accused Koshyari of belittling his constitutional position and allowing himself “to be a pawn in BJP’s illegal usurpation of power”. The three parties urged the court to strike down the governor’s decision, and direct Koshyari to invite its alliance, under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership, to form the government.
War of words
Earlier in the day, the Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik accused Ajit Pawar of misusing the signatures of the party’s MLAs to claim support for the Bharatiya Janata Party. At a press conference, Sharad Pawar also pointed out that his nephew possessed the list of the 54 MLAs along with their signatures since he was the NCP legislature party leader. He has since been removed. “I presume he has submitted that list as a letter of support to the governor,” Sharad Pawar told reporters. “If this is true, the governor has been misled.”
Uddhav Thackeray, who addressed the media along with Sharad Pawar, accused his party’s former alliance partner of conducting “political surgical strike”. “The BJP must go back and introspect,” he said. “They should see what ideals Shivaji Maharaj stood for. We [Shiv Sena] don’t play night games. We don’t split parties.”
The Congress, meanwhile, asked how and when Koshyari had verified the BJP’s claims of support, and wondered why he had not mentioned the time given to Devendra Fadnavis to prove his administration’s majority in the state Assembly. The Congress leader also raised a number of questions about the circumstances leading to Koshyari’s recommendation to the Centre to withdraw President’s Rule.
The BJP lashed out at the three outfits, claiming it had thwarted a “conspiracy to capture the financial capital of India through the back door”. Fadnavis had won the people’s mandate and had always been the “rightful chief minister”, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi. He alleged that the parties had formed “an unholy alliance for personal gains”. Meanwhile, Fadnavis told BJP workers at the state headquarters that the party would provide a strong, pro-farmer government. “Modi hai to mumkin hai [Everything possible under leadership of PM Narendra Modi],” he said.