BJP gets another 24 hours as SC reserves Maharashtra verdict

Maharashtra
Senior Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, Prithviraj Chavan and Mukul Wasnik address the media | PTI Photo

Uncertainty continued on the fate of the BJP government in Maharashtra on Tuesday (November 25) as the Supreme Court reserved for 10:30 am on Tuesday its order on the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine’s plea against the swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta handed over two letters — one from Fadnavis claiming majority and the other from Governor BS Koshyari inviting Fadnavis to form government — to the three-judge bench on Monday, as per the directions of the top court. The bench also rejected the combine’s request for an immediate floor test on Monday.

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This comes after in a dramatic development, Fadnavis and NCP’s Ajit Pawar were sworn in as the chief minister and his deputy on Saturday morning. The government claimed the support of the NCP MLAs, a claim which was turned down by party chief Sharad Pawar.

The arguments

Senior Congress leaders Prithviraj Chavan and Mukul Wasnik at Supreme Court | PTI Photo

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented the Shiv Sena, said the three-party combine has affidavits from 154 MLAs and that the BJP should be asked to prove its majority within 24 hours. The Centre opposed saying the BJP has the support of all 54 MLAs of the NCP and sought at least two days to response to the plea against the governor’s decision.

The Centre also told the court that Governor Koshyari had in absolute discretion invited the largest party to form government on November 23.

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Solicitor General Mehta told the court that the Maharashtra governor is not supposed to conduct a roving and fishing inquiry to ascertain which party has the numbers to form a government. He added that President’s rule was imposed after the BJP, the Sena and the NCP, all invited by the governor in succession, failed to form government.

After the hearing, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “We requested the Supreme Court that a floor test be ordered immediately so that it is proven that the majority is with the alliance formed for Maharashtra’s development — Congress-Sena-NCP. We showed the affidavits of 154 MLAs that clearly prove that the alliance has the majority.”

Off court 

Leaders of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP leave the Raj Bhavan after submitting a list of legislators supporting their alliance | PTI Photo

The Sena, Congress and NCP combine on Monday sent a letter to the governor requesting him to call the coalition to form government. They asserted that the BJP government does not have the numbers to survive.

The move was opposed by BJP leader Ashish Shelar, who dubbed the letter as “bogus”. “It is a bogus letter as technically Ajit Pawar is still the leader of the NCP’s legislature wing and he has extended support to the BJP,” Shelar told reporters.

Also, the three NCP MLAs, who were reportedly missing since the swearing-in of Fadnavis, returned to Mumbai on Monday, and one of them revealed that they were taken to Delhi. According to NCP leader Nawab Malik, the three MLAs —Daulat Daroda, Nitin Pawar and Narhari Zirwal — have pledged support to Sharad Pawar.

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Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar reiterated that he was not behind nephew Ajit’s decision to align with the BJP and that his party along with Congress and Shiv Sena will form the next government. On whether Ajit Pawar, who was earlier sacked as the party’s House leader, will be expelled from the NCP, he said the decision will be taken at the party-level.

Further, Nawab Malik claimed that the swearing-in took place on the basis of bogus documents and that Fadnavis does not have the numbers. He also said that most of their MLAs had returned and that they had 52 legislators on their side at the moment.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi during a protest at Parliament House | PTI Photo

Earlier in the day, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi along with other party leaders staged a protest on the Parliament’s premises against the BJP’s move to form the government in Maharashtra. Congress MPs Jothimani and Ramya Haridas alleged they were “manhandled” during the protest by the security personnel.

The combine had earlier shifted their MLAs to luxury hotels to prevent an alleged “poaching attempt by the BJP”. Police said that security had been increased outside these hotels to prevent episodes of poaching.

“Security personnel manhandled our women parliamentarians. We have never experienced this inside Parliament. We will be waiting to see what action is been taken against responsible people,” Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told reporters.

(With inputs from agencies)