Maharashtra stalemate continues as Shiv Sena reasserts demand for CM post, NCP backs off; a look at some scenarios - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Thursday, 7 November 2019

Maharashtra stalemate continues as Shiv Sena reasserts demand for CM post, NCP backs off; a look at some scenarios

A fortnight after the announcement of Assembly poll results, the prospects of a new government being formed in Maharashtra remain as elusive as ever. The BJP, which won 105 seats, and the Shiv Sena, which bagged 56 seats, are locked in a bitter tussle over sharing of the chief minister's post and ministerial portfolios in the new government, even 13 days after the Assembly poll verdict handed them enough seats to stitch together a coalition government.

They won 161 seats together in the 288-member House, well above the halfway mark of 145; however, the stalemate continues as neither party got absolute majority and both are claiming the chief minister's post.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Today, BJP leaders are slated to meet the governor while Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is set to meet party legislators at his residence, Matoshree to decide on the party's stand regarding government formation. Congress and NCP meanwhile, have snubbed Sena's flirtation. Sharad Pawar clarified on Wednesday that he was not interested in propping up a Sena-led government by upsetting the pre-poll coalition arrangements, when it clearly got the mandate to sit in Opposition.

Unconfirmed reports had suggested that the Sena, which has been bargaining hard for chief minister's post with BJP, had sent feelers to the Opposition camp to see if they are willing to accommodate its demand. This came after the Congress had announced unconditional support to the Janata Dal (Secular) just to keep the BJP out of power, even relenting the chief minister's post to the junior alliance partner.

However, reports claimed that Sonia Gandhi firmly put her foot down on the issue, clarifying that Sena's ideological position would never allow for an alliance between Maha-agadhi partners and the Maratha party.

Besides, the Opposition NCP won 54 seats while the Congress got 44 seats; in order to prop up a government excluding the BJP, Sena, Congress and NCP would have had to come together to form a government.

The tenure of the present Assembly ends in two days and the Constitution warrants the imposition of President's Rule if no coalition/party comes to stake claim for government formation in case of a hung Assembly. The Constitution does not state any provision for an extension of term of the current Assembly. Hence, Maharashtra will see one of the following scenarios play out.

Option 1: A BJP-Sena government

This is the most simplistic and morally appropriate choice left before the political parties in Maharashtra, as notwithstanding the post-election bickering, the Mahayuti was the alliance that got voted to power. It is still widely believed that the cat-and-mouse game between the two alliance partners is a hollow attempt at one-upmanship and Shiv Sena will eventually settle for an agreement with the BJP in a give-and-take pact for power-sharing. This gains currency from reports about Shiv Sena approaching the RSS and demanding Union minister Nitin Gadkari as an interlocutor.

Sources from both parties say a special three-day session of the House may be convened next week to swear in the new MLAs.

A resolution to the BJP-Shiv Sena stalemate over government formation is expected and a new dispensation may take office before the term of the outgoing Assembly ends, sources said. Sources from both parties said back-channel talks are on between the two old but often-feuding Hindutva allies and a breakthrough is expected.

"We expect a breakthrough. If all goes well we can have a government by 9 November," a source, who did not wish to be identified, told PTI.

However, it was not clear as to what will be the concession offered by the BJP to the Sena if the Uddhav Thackeray-led party decides to bury the hatchet. A senior BJP functionary asserted the party will not compromise on the post of chief minister.

But Sena as of now appears unlikely to yield. At the time of writing, Sena leader Sanjay Raut for the umpteenth time reasserted that the chief minister will be from his party. Claiming that the BJP had agreed to a "50-50" formula on power sharing in the state, the Sena has demanded that the top seat should be shared between the two. Meanwhile, PTI quotes BJP sources as saying the party will not compromise on the post of chief minister, which brings us to our second option.

Option 2: Minority government for the time being

It is possible for the governor to use the power entrusted to him and invite a person, who he feels is the most likely to command the confidence of the House. In this case, the leader of the single largest party, who was also the past chief minister with the support of his current ally, may be invited by the governor. However, he must prove his majority within a span set by the governor on the floor of the House.

According to a website that documents Constitutional conventions and Supreme Court judgments, in a letter dated 17 May, 1967 to three former Chief Justices of India, Justices Mahajan, Sarkar and Gajendragadkar and eminent constitutional experts like MC Setalvad and HM Seervai, the then home minister YB Chavan mentioned three views on the appointment of the chief minister and sought their legal opinion on it.

The three views were: (i) The leader of the largest party in the legislature should be invited to form the government irrespective of whether or not such a party commands a stable majority. (ii) If the party in power failed to secure an absolute majority in the newly- elected legislature, the leader of that party should not be invited to form the Government  because the electoral verdict should be regarded as, in effect, disqualifying the party from holding office for another term. (iii) The governor should make endeavour to appoint a person who is most likely to command a majority in the legislature.

There was complete agreement on the third point.

Option 3: President's Rule

Under Article 356 of the Constitution of India, in the event that a state government is unable to function according to constitutional provisions, the Central government can take direct control of the state machinery.

Based on the report of the Sarkaria Commission on Centre–State relations(1988), the Supreme Court in SR Bommai versus Union of India case (1994) enlisted the situations where the President's Rule can be imposed on a federal state under Article 356. Amid other conditions laid down, the first three pointers deal with the scenarios where a majority government is absent in state.

  • When after general elections to the Assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly
  • When the party/ coalition having a majority in the Assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition/ party commanding a majority in the Assembly.
  • When a ministry resigns after its defeat in the Assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the Assembly.

Arguably, any of the three pointers aren't unimaginable in the Maharashtra scenario, if the pre-poll alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP fails to take shape despite negotiations.

Option 4: Sena, NCP and Congress combine comes to power

This is highly unlikely (and virtually impossible), given the fact that Pawar has shown no inclination to support Sena so far. However, purely dealing with a mathematical possibility, it is possible for Sena (now 60 after the support of Independents), NCP (54) and Congress (44) to cobble up a coalition government. The most likely power-sharing agreement could be under a Sena chief minister and a council of ministers including MLAs from all three parties. However, such an alliance will be unsteady because of obvious ideological clashes between the hardline Sena and secular Congress and NCP.

With inputs from PTI

November 07, 2019 at 11:10AM

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