Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday afternoon resigned as chief minister of Maharashtra, soon after the Nationalist Congress Party’s Ajit Pawar quit as deputy chief minister. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ordered that a trust vote be held in the Assembly on Wednesday.
Pawar’s resignation came as a surprise, even though the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress had expressed confidence about winning the trust vote after the top court ordered Fadnavis’ government to prove its majority by 5 pm on Wednesday.
While resigning, Fadnavis said that his government did not have a majority and that the BJP would not stoop to buying legislators.
The floor test will be an open-ballot exercise and telecast live. The bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna directed that a Protem Speaker be appointed for the proceedings.
Announcing the ruling on Tuesday, the bench observed that the maintainability, extent of judicial review, and the validity of the Maharashtra governor’s order were constitutional matters that could be adjudicated later. “In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values,” the judges said. “An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so.”
The top court noted that the oath of the newly elected members had not been conducted yet even after a month had passed since the Assembly election results were announced on October 24. The floor test is expected to follow after the oath is administered to all the legislators.
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the anti-BJP combine would win the trust vote while NCP Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said he was grateful to the top court for upholding democratic values and constitutional principles. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan called for Fadnavis’s resignation. “All three parties [Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena] are satisfied with the Supreme Court order,” he told ANI.
Leaders and MLAs of the Shiv Sena, NCP, and the Congress had gathered at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai on Monday evening in an apparent show of strength. A banner placed behind the MLAs’ seats read, “We are 162”, implying that the number of MLAs present was 162, well above the Maharashtra Assembly’s majority mark of 145. The MLAs also took a pledge of allegiance during the meeting.
Follow our live updates on the political crisis in Maharashtra here.
- Maharashtra crisis: ‘162’ Sena-NCP-Congress MLAs pledge allegiance, SC ruling on floor test tomorrow
- How did BJP come to rely on an allegedly corrupt dynast, Ajit Pawar, to snatch power in Maharashtra?
The political imbroglio
The BJP had won 105 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the results of which were announced on October 24. The Shiv Sena, which was in an alliance with the BJP, won 56 seats. Despite having enough seats to form a government together, the two allies bickered over power-sharing – the chief minister’s post and Cabinet portfolios – resulting in the Shiv Sena starting negotiations with the ideologically different Congress and NCP instead.
With no outcome in sight then, the Centre imposed President’s Rule in Maharashtra on November 12. The Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP continued negotiations to form an alliance, and on Friday evening, Sharad Pawar announced that Uddhav Thackeray had been unanimously chosen to head the new government. Thus, the oath-taking ceremony of Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar early on Saturday came as a surprise.
The same day, the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress filed a petition in the Supreme Court against Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government. On Sunday, the Supreme Court asked for the letters of support on the basis of which the governor took action. After these letters were submitted to the court on Monday, it reserved its verdict in the case, for Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress also staked claim to form the government in Maharashtra, claiming 162 MLAs were on their side.