The political drama in Maharashtra reached another high on Monday with the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena combine parading the supporting MLAs in a show of strength and also made them take a pledge that they will not do anything that will benefit the BJP.
NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde said 162 MLAs of the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ comprising the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress assembled for the joint parade.
The parade at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai, which was attended by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, came on the eve of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the combine’s plea against the formation of Devendra Fadnavis government on early Saturday morning.
“I swear that under the leadership of Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Sonia Gandhi. I will be honest to my party. I won’t get lured by anything. I will not do anything which will benefit BJP,” the MLAs pledged at the gathering, which was also attended by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Addressing the gathering, Sharad Pawar said, “A misinformation is being spread that Ajit Pawar is the NCP’s legislature party leader, who would issue a whip to all (NCP) MLAs to vote for the BJP (in floor test). It is being said that whoever defies the whip would lose his membership of the House.”
He added that he will personally take the responsibility that the membership of the MLAs do not become null and void. “People who have acquired power illegally have to be removed now,” Pawar said in an apparent reference to the BJP, adding that the alliance will have the support of more than 162 MLAs during the floor test.
However, BJP leader Ashish Shelar responded to the show of strength saying a majority in the assembly cannot be proved by such parades.
SC verdict on Tuesday
The Supreme Court is set to pass an order on Tuesday on holding a crucial floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly to ascertain whether Fadnavis enjoyed majority. The order will be passed at 10.30 am on Tuesday, the court said on Monday, giving the shaky 3-day-old Maharashtra government a breather in the intense battle for numbers between the rival camps.
Though the deadline for proving majority has not been brought on judicial record, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the Secretary to the Governor, and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Fadnavis, told the court that the Governor had given 14 days’ time.
The order by the apex court bench came after a 80-minute hearing on a petition by the the-party combine against the governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government and swearing in Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as the chief minister and his deputy respectively.
The Sena-led combine pressed for an order for carrying out the floor test on Monday itself, which was opposed by Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. The Centre told the apex court that the BJP had the support of all 54 NCP MLAs to form a government and asked for two to three days to reply to the plea against Governor BS Koshyari’s decision.
Appearing for the Shiv Sena, senior advocate Kapil Sibal countered the BJP by saying the combine has affidavits from 154 MLAs and the BJP should be asked to prove its majority within 24 hours if it has the numbers. After perusing Koshyari’s letter inviting Fadnavis, the bench said it has to be decided whether the chief minister enjoyed majority on the floor of the House.
The BJP is the single largest party with 105 MLAs in the 288-member state assembly followed by the Shiv Sena (56), NCP (54) and Congress (44). The majority mark is 145.
Ruckus in Parliament, allegations of ‘manhandling’ women MPs
The dramatic turn of events that led to the return of Fadnavis as chief minister on Saturday propped up by NCP’s Ajit Pawar after the latter’s revolt against the Sharad Pawar-led party also echoed in Parliament with the Congress and other opposition members creating a ruckus.
Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned several hours ahead of schedule in the wake of unrelenting protests by the opposition members. The Congress alleged that women parliamentarians were “manhandled” by marshals in the Lok Sabha when they were protesting in the Well of the House.
Alliance stakes claim
Earlier in the day, leaders of the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress submitted a letter to the governor, reiterating their claim that they have the required numbers to form a government. Addressing reporters, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said the three parties have signatures of all their respective MLAs and will submit the list to the Supreme Court.
Sharad Pawar, who has become the rallying point for the three-party combine, reiterated he was not behind Ajit Pawar’s decision to align with the BJP and become the deputy chief minister. Talking to reporters, the Maratha strongman asserted that his party along with the Congress and the Shiv Sena will form the next government.
Amid the high political drama and fear of “poaching” of MLAs, the NCP shifted its legislators from a five-star resort to two other hotels in Mumbai. Congress legislators are at a suburban hotel in Andheri as are the Sena’s MLAs.
(With inputs from agencies)