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Monday, November 25, 2019

All eyes on SC :No end to drama: Congress, NCP say BJP contacting their MLAs

Congress, NCP say BJP contacting their MLAs

earing poaching of MLAs by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine on Sunday told the Supreme Court that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should be directed to prove majority on Sunday itself. Demanding an immediate floor test, the allies also claimed that they have the numbers to prove a majority in the House.
The Supreme Court, however, gave 24-hour time to the BJP-NCP government in Maharashtra, asking Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his deputy Ajit Pawar and the Centre to submit relevant documents and letters of support from the MLAs before the top court. The hearing will now continue on Monday.
With the Supreme Court likely to take a call on crucial floor test in Maharashtra on Monday, which will decide the fate of the nascent BJP-led government, former Maharashtra chief minister and Congress leader Ashok Chavan alleged that some BJP leaders had booked rooms in hotels where his party MLAs are put up and were contacting some of them.
Speculation was rife that the task of getting MLAs into the BJP's fold has been entrusted to Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Narayan Rane, Ganesh Naik and Babanrao Pachpute. Meanwhile, NCP has started moving its MLAs to Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai fearing horse-trading.
Now that the order of the Supreme Court is likely to be passed on Monday, let's go through what all has unfolded in Maharashtra since Saturday morning:
The month-long political impasse ended dramatically on Saturday morning after BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, backed by the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, took the chief minister's oath. NCP leader Ajit Pawar was sworn-in as the deputy chief minister at Raj Bhavan. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath to the two in the morning ceremony, where only official media was present.
After taking oath as the chief minister for a second term, Devendra Fadnavis said the people of Maharashtra needed a stable and not a "khichdi' government. Ajit Pawar said the farmers were facing a lot of issues since there was no stable government in place. "So we decided to form a stable government," he said.
The surprise began Friday afternoon when Ajit Pawar approached Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari with signed letters from all 54 of NCP's winning candidates and extended his support to Devendra Fadnavis and the BJP, making way for government formation.
Devendra Fadnavis had been keeping a low profile since the alliance with the Shiv Sena broke over the chief minister's post, post the Assembly election result. Fadnavis reached Raj Bhawan late Friday evening and staked claim to form the government along with the support of NCP's 54 MLAs and 15 others.
After receiving NCP's letter of support, Governor Koshiyari informed the Centre, recommended the lifting of President's Rule in the state which paved way for a democratically-elected government.
The Governor then on Saturday morning invited Devendra Fadnavis to form the next government in Maharashtra.
The developments did send shockwaves in the NCP and its allies - Congress and Shiv Sena - since its chief Sharad Pawar, the previous night, had said that the consensus to be the Maharashtra chief minister was on Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
However, Sharad Pawar distanced himself from having any role in the sudden change in the Maharashtra political atmosphere, saying Ajit Pawar's decision to support the BJP was his own and not that of the party. We place on record that we do not support or endorse this decision of his," Pawar tweeted.
The Congress said Devendra Fadnavis being sworn-in as the Maharashtra chief minister was a "betrayal of people's mandate" and the "illegitimate" government formation will self-destruct. Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut said Ajit Pawar had stabbed his party by joining hands with the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra.
Congress leader Ashok Chavan also accused Ajit Pawar of misusing the letter of support of the NCP MLAs and submitting it to the Maharashtra Governor. He said the support letter was misused without the consent of the NCP MLAs.
"The letter was prepared for the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance and Ajit Pawar took the letter from his office and misused it to give it to the Governor without the consent of the MLAs. It was a clear misuse of the support letter," Ashok Chavan said.
While the fingers pointed at Sharad Pawar as the developments were termed as a masterstroke by the NCP chief, Sharad Pawar said he was not aware of the developments. He also said that Ajit Pawar's action comes under "indiscipline" and is "against the party lines". He also said that the party will take action against Ajit Pawar for lending support to BJP for government formation in Maharashtra.
Before the clarification from Sharad Pawar came, one theory that was being floated is that the NCP chief and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 50-minute conversation in Parliament on November 20 laid the foundation stone for the development on Saturday when Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP and bagged the deputy chief minister's seat.
After swearing-in as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ajit Pawar remained in his brother's house and only left after midnight to seek legal options after being removed as the NCP legislative unit leader.
On Sunday however, Ajit Pawar thanked PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders and said he is still in the NCP and "Sharad Pawar is our leader". Justifying his joining hands with the BJP for the formation of the government, Ajit Pawar said that NCP's alliance with the saffron party would provide a stable government in Maharashtra for the next five years.
The BJP asserted that it had the "electoral and moral" mandate to form government in Maharashtra and brushed aside the criticism of its alliance with NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who was accused by the saffron party in the past of corruption, saying the tie-up was guided by current circumstances.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at the Congress-NCP and the Shiv Sena, saying those who were "dead opposed" to each other joined hands to "grab" power, while the saffron party and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had won the popular mandate to form the government.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari said that "anything can happen in cricket and politics", and expressed confidence that the BJP-led government in Maharashtra will pass the floor test.
In a special bench hearing before the Supreme Court, the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress argued that it is their alliance which has the majority in the Maharashtra Assembly, while Devendra Fadnavis, sworn in as chief minister on Saturday, does not.
"If Devendra Fadnavis has numbers to prove majority, let him prove it on the floor of House, else we have numbers to form government in Maharashtra," senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the combine, submitted before a bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Shiv Sena, called the Governor's decision to administer chief minister's oath to Devendra Fadnavis as "bizarre". Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, for the NCP, also echoed the argument, calling for an "urgent floor test".
Interestingly, the Center and Maharashtra government did not take any stand before the special bench, with no lawyer appearing on behalf of the Center or Governor BS Koshiyari.
Solicitor General for India Tushar Mehta, who was present in court, informed the bench that he had "not been instructed by the Governor or the Center," but was present in his capacity as a senior law officer. Mehta, however, raised objection to the alliance plea.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court asked whether the Governor's order and the letters of support by the MLAs, claimed by the Fadnavis-Pawar government were on record. When Kapil Sibal informed the court that "nothing is in the public domain", the bench directed the Solicitor General to place the necessary documents on record.
Amid high octane political drama in Maharashtra, NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal claimed that 49-50 MLAs have extended their support to party chief Sharad Pawar.
"Around 49-50 MLAs of the party are with us right now and 1-2 are coming too. All the MLAs have been kept together. NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena will 100 per cent form government in Maharashtra," Bhujbal said.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik, too, has claimed that 50 MLAs are with the party and four are with the BJP. The saffron party, on the other hand, has claimed the support of 118 MLAs including the Independent legislators.

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