The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 24-06-2022 | 02:45 pm
Hours ahead of June 21 morning, when the International Yoga Day was celebrated, a luxury hotel on the Surat-Dumas Road came under a tight police cordon. At least 30 Shiv Sena MLAs from Maharashtra, led by Eknath Shinde, a minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, had driven down to Surat on June 20 night to seek sanctuary in this hotel – and to declare a rebellion against the Uddhav-led Sena.Gujarat BJP chief Chandrakant Raghunath Paatil, popularly known as CR, was due to attend a Yoga Day event at Raisan village in Gandhinagar, which however was cancelled at the last minute.While Surat seemed to be a natural choice for the rebel Sena MLAs, given that it is just 279-km from Mumbai in the BJP-ruled Gujarat, the presence of a man at the Le Meridien hotel, where 40 rooms had been booked on June 20 night, confirmed that the operation bore the stamp of C R Paatil, a Lok Sabha MP from Navsari with roots in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district, who is also said to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.That man was Paresh Patel, Paatil’s confidant and the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC)’s Standing Committee chairman, who was at the hotel right from June 20 night when the rebel Sena MLAs arrived. So, although Paatil was out of sight, at his behest Paresh remained at the helm of the Surat scene from where Shinde’s rebellion plan was set into motion.Paatil told The Indian Express that he had been out of Surat “since Monday”. The presence of the Gujarat police personnel in significant numbers outside the hotel and that of a police team, including Surat city joint commissioner Sharad Singhal, inside it indicated that Paatil’s another confidant, the Gujarat minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi, a Surat MLA, could not have been unaware of this operation and the identity of the guests there.Sources said that nearly 32 rebel MLAs reached Surat on June 20 night after being driven from Maharashtra, and six others joined them on early June 21 morning. At around 4 am on June 22, a chartered Spice Jet flight carrying 38 Sena and Independent MLAs along with Shinde, flew out of Surat to Guwahati in flood-ravaged Assam, another BJP-ruled state.From June 20 night to early June 22, two developments seemed to have led to this evacuation from Surat: one was the access gained by Uddhav’s two emissaries – his personal secretary Milind Narvekar and the Legislative Council member Ravindra Phatak – to the hotel to meet the rebel Sena MLAs and, secondly, the bid made by two party MLAs, Nitin Deshmukh and Kailas Patil, to “escape” from there against Shinde’s plan, insider sources told The Indian Express. “Being close to Maharashtra did not look like a good idea any more,” said a source.Surat city was selected as a safe haven by the Sena rebels because it is in a BJP-ruled state and barely 279-km away from Mumbai, even as it has a good road, air and rail connectivity. Maharashtra’s Palghar district shares its border with Gujarat’s Valsad district. All the rebel MLAs were brought to Surat by road via Palghar, a distance of 212 kms, said a source. While Navsari and Valsad districts are closer to Maharashtra, “neither has an airport or luxury hotels”, the source added. A significant part of Navsari, Paatil’s parliamentary constituency, lies in Surat district.According to a source who handled the logistics for the Shinde camp in Surat, 38 rebel MLAs were flown from the city on a chartered Spice Jet flight to Guwahati on June 21. Four MLAs flew out on a chartered flight on June 22, while four more followed suit on June 23 at around 6 am. Sources in the local BJP unit said that the two aircraft chartered from Mumbai and Delhi were stationed at the Surat airport “in readiness” with the city becoming the rebel MLAs’ key transit base. Thus, said the source, “46 Shiv Sena and Independent MLAs reached Guwahati”.While Paresh Patel was seen at the Le Meridien hotel in his official car, sources said he was assisted by his colleagues in the SMC, such as BJP councillor Dinesh Rajpurohit, councillor Amit Singh Rajput, and Surat party general secretary Kishor Bindal. All these BJP leaders, affiliated to the Paatil camp, were given various assignments, including the crucial tasks of booking flights and accomodation for the Sena rebels.The 170-room Le Meridien hotel on Surat-Dumas Road was chosen, sources said, because it was located just a km off the Surat airport. “In the case of an emergency all the MLAs could have been rushed in a short time to the Surat airport, which has good domestic air connectivity as well as parking space for chartered planes,” said a source.Surat, which is home to some of the country’s leading diamond barons, is not only flush with funds but has also those businessmen “willing to back such an operation”, of whom several own chartered planes too, sources said.Sources in the Surat BJP unit said that prior to the arrival of Shinde’s flock of MLAs to the city, local party leaders had contacted Le Meridien and made arrangements for their accommodation there.Before the MLAs checked into the hotel, the Gujarat police personnel were already deployed in its premises. The MLAs were kept in rooms on the hotel’s fourth floor, with the BJP leaders being present there to take care of their requirements. The cops in plainclothes were also stationed on different floors to ensure no one breached the cordon, and to keep the flock “insulated” from curious visitors. Three layers of security were ensured outside the hotel with only guests with prior bookings allowed entry on showing their identity proofs. The hotel staff were stationed along with policemen, who had the list of such guests.“An operation with such precision and secrecy could not have happened without the knowledge of the BJP top brass,” said a Congress leader.
A DAY after reporting 2,369 new Covid-19 cases, the state recorded 3,482 cases on Tuesday with a surge of 47 per cent in the last 24 hours. Also, for the third consecutive day, five Covid fatalities were also recorded in Maharashtra.Out of the total numbers, Mumbai reported 1,290 cases. The test positivity rate (TPR) — the number of positive cases out of the total tests conducted — stood at 11.70 per cent in the city with 11,012 tests conducted on Tuesday.With the upward spiral of Covid cases, the total active cases in Maharashtra stood at 25,481 as of June 28. Out of the five deaths reported in the state on the day, two were from Mumbai. A 75-year-old male patient who succumbed to the infection had comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and dementia. The other deceased, a 54-year-old female, also had comorbidities such as liver failure along with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Other than that, one death has been reported each from Vasai-Virar, Satara and Gadchiroli.As per the latest genome sequencing report of National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, nine patients have been diagnosed with BA.5 and BA.4–the new variant of Omicron. Of these, four are from Palghar, three from Raigad, and two from Thane. This takes the total identified cases of BA.4 and BA.5 to 63 in the state.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday made an emotional appeal to rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena, who are camping in Guwahati, to return to the party and have a dialogue with him to sort out issues. He also said that he was “worried” about them. This came on a day when Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde said that the rebel MLAs will soon return to Mumbai and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis visited Delhi to meet party president J P Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah.In his appeal to the rebels, Thackeray said, “You have been stuck in Guwahati for the last few days. Every day, new information is coming forth about you and many of you are in touch with us. You are still in Shiv Sena in your heart. The family members of some of you have also contacted me and conveyed their feelings to me. I respect your feelings as the head of Shiv Sena family. As the head of the family, I tell you from the bottom of my heart, there is still time.”The appeal came a day after the Supreme Court issued an interim order giving relief to the rebel camp after 16 of its MLAs were issued disqualification notices by the deputy Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly.Addressing the rebels, Thackeray asked them to come and sit in front of him. “… Don’t fall prey to anyone’s missteps and false assurances.”After Thackeray’s appeal, Shinde took to Twitter and said, “On one hand, your son and spokesperson are calling Balasaheb’s Shiv Sainiks as pigs, dirt, buffalo, dogs, illiterate and corpses, abusing our fathers, and on the other hand you are calling the same MLAs to save the anti-Hindu MVA government. What is the meaning of this?”Thackeray’s appeal did not seem to have any impact on the rebel MLAs. Deepak Kesarkar, a rebel MLA told The Indian Express that the appeal does not make any sense now. “We have already presented our side to the CM and today also, we are firm on our demand that first they should come out of the MVA… after that we will come for discussion. We respect them (Thackeray) but first they should come out of MVA, then call us for discussion and we will come.”Bharat Gogawale, another MLA and the chief whip appointed by the Shinde camp, added, “It is very late now… nothing can happen.” He further said that Sena MP and party spokesperson Sanjay Raut’s statements have ruined everything. “He should know what to say in such a situation,” Gogawale said.The rebel MLAs also said that the Thackeray camp has not been consistent in its stand and approach towards them.In fact, contradictions can be seen in the statements issued by various Sena leaders in Mumbai over the last week. On June 24, Thackeray, while addressing party workers, had said that “those who have gone were never his and had betrayed him”.Over the last week, Aaditya and Raut had made several objectionable statements against the rebel MLAs. While Aaditya had referred to them as “dirt” and “traitors” in his address to Yuva Sena cadres on June 25, while addressing a rally on Sunday, Raut had called the rebels “dogs”, “buffaloes”, “thief” and “living corpse”.Also on June 26, Aaditya had said that the door of the party is closed for the rebel MLAs. A day before, hinting that the MLAs will have to face Mumbaikars and the Shiv Sainiks on their arrival.The MLAs in Guwahati, meanwhile, said that the leadership in Mumbai is not clear of what it wants and should take a clear stand. “You cannot have it both ways,” said a senior rebel MLA.
MUMBAI POLICE Commissioner Sanjay Pandey on Tuesday called legislators from the Shiv Sena and BJP to his office in order to discuss the law and order situation in the city in light of the current political turmoil in the state. Those who attended the meeting included BJP MLAs Mihir Kotecha, Parag Alavani and party corporator Atul Shah, among others. The Shiv Sena was represented by some of the party’s corporators.“We had been called by the Mumbai police commissioner to discuss the law andorder situation in the city keeping in mind the political turmoil. We all want peace in the city. What is happening within the Shiv Sena is their personal matter and we have nothing to do with it,” said Alavani.The Supreme Court, while hearing the pleas filed by the rebel Sena candidates earlier, had instructed the state government to ensure that there are no law and order problems in the city and the residences of rebel candidates are not attacked. Police have also conducted several meetings with Shiv Sena shakha pramukhs, asking them to maintain peace. Earlier, on Monday, a two-hour meeting was conducted by Mumbai Police, during which the top brass interacted with senior inspectors of local police stations, asking them to ensure that law and order was maintained in their jurisdictions.Soon after the rebellion in the Shiv Sena, offices of rebel MLAs such as Mangesh Kudalkar and Sada Sarvankar had been attacked and their posters had been blackened. Later, CRPF protection was provided to four Sena MLAs in the city.
The KC and HR College, which are now part of HSNC University, declared their first merit list on Tuesday, becoming the first Mumbai colleges to do so. The cut-off score in almost all courses has seen a considerable drop from that of last year. According to the colleges, this is a result of the beginning of admission process though CBSE and ISC results haven’t been declared. Most city colleges will declare their first merit list on Wednesday.For traditional commerce (B Com), which is the most sought-after course in HR College, the first merit list cut-off has dropped to 93.5 per cent from last year’s 97per cent. At KC college, the commerce cut-off has dropped from 96.2 per cent to 93 per cent. Similarly, in case of professional courses too, the cut-off has dropped by a few percentages.“This year, we have begun admissions without students from CBSE and ICSE boards, who generally have higher scores. As per regular trends, these scores would have been in our third merit list,” said HR College principal Dr Pooja Ramchandani, adding that this is phase I of the admissions and there will be a separate merit list once the remaining two boards declare their class 12 results.At HR as well as KC college, 30-40 per cent seats are kept reserved for students coming from these two boards.“We have taken the decision based on statistical record of admissions from the past few years,” said Dr Hemlata Bagla, Vice Chancellor, HSNC University, Mumbai, and principal, KC College. Dr Bagla also shared how there is no B Sc course merit list this year as most seats are filled with in-house admissions and for the remaining seats, admissions will be done after all the results are out.
While granting interim relief to rebel MLAs of the Shiv Sena on Monday, the Supreme Court made a crucial but unusual judicial intervention that raises questions on the powers of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The Speaker’s powers under the Tenth Schedule have been previously upheld by the Supreme Court itself; the court has allowed judicial review only once the Speaker has made a decision, and has ruled out interference with the process.The question of when a floor test will be held in the Maharashtra Assembly, meanwhile, remains unclear. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari late on Tuesday.What does the interim order say?The interim order grants more time to the rebel MLAs — until July 11 — to reply to the disqualification notice served on them. It seeks affidavits from them, and also a counter-affidavit from the Deputy Speaker on his removal as demanded by the rebels.In granting more time, the Supreme Court has essentially delayed the disqualification proceedings, which would have a direct impact on atrust vote in the Assembly, whenever it takes place.The issue of considering the removal of the Deputy Speaker himself is more complex and raises questions on the sanctity of the Tenth Schedule.What does the Tenth Schedule say?The Tenth Schedule or the anti-defection law, introduced in 1985, gives the Speaker of the House the power to disqualify legislators who ‘defect’ from the party. In the landmark case Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu in 1992, the Supreme Court upheld the power vested in the Speaker and said that only the final order of the Speaker will be subject to judicial review.Courts have refrained from interfering with the process itself.However, a 2016 ruling of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has shifted the balance on the powers of the Speaker. In the landmark Nabam Rebia v Bemang Felix case, concerning a constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh then, a five-judge Bench of the SC limited the Speaker’s powers.What was the Nabam Rebia ruling?While the larger legal issue in the Nabam Rebia ruling was on the contours of the powers and limitations of the Governor, the issue of anti-defection also came up. On that point, the Supreme Court held that it is “constitutionally impermissible” for a speaker to proceed with disqualification proceedings, if a no-confidence motion against him is pending.“The action of the Speaker in continuing, with one or more disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule, whilst a notice of resolution for his own removal, from the office of Speaker is pending, would ‘appear’ to be unfair. If a Speaker truly and rightfully enjoys support of the majority of the MLAs, there would be no difficulty whatsoever, to demonstrate the confidence which the members of the State Legislature, repose in him,” the Supreme Court ruled.This ruling gave a window to defecting legislators to stall or circumvent the Tenth Schedule by seeking removal of the Speaker when disqualification proceedings are anticipated — effectively tying the hands of the Speaker.Have legislators used this legal route?Yes, since 2016, this legal route has a been a familiar playbook for legislators cutting across states and political affiliations.In 2016, rebel MLAs of the Congress including Vijay Bahuguna sought removal of Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal after shifting ranks to the BJP to stall anti-defection proceedings.In 2018, AIADMK legislator S Karunas sent a notice to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Secretary K Srinivasan, seeking removal of Speaker P Dhanapal at a time when the AIADMK leadership was mulling action against Karunas and three other MLAs for having pledged their support to T T V Dhinakaran.In June 2020, the Congress in Manipur served a notice for the removal of Speaker Y Khemchand as nine of its MLAs defected to the BJP.How can the Speaker be removed?Under Article 179 of the Constitution, a Speaker can be removed by a resolution of the Assembly passed by a majority of “all the then members of the Assembly”. The process begins with notice of at least 14 days.In the 2016 Nabam Rebia ruling, the Supreme Court interpreted Article 179, specifically the term “all the then members of the Assembly”, to mean the composition of the house at the date/time of giving the notice for the removal of the Speaker. This interpretation would mean that the composition of the Assembly cannot be changed from the date of issuing of a notice of the removal of the Speaker, and therefore the Speaker cannot make any decisions under the Tenth Schedule to change the composition of the House until the question of his removal is settled.During the hearing on the Maharashtra situation, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, referred to the 2016 Nabam Rebia ruling to argue that the Deputy Speaker of an Assembly cannot decide on disqualification of MLAs while a motion for his or her removal is pending.What were the reasons for the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision?The Supreme Court’s reasoning in barring the Speaker from acting under the Tenth Schedule when a notice for his own removal is pending, is to ensure that the Speaker who disqualifies legislators must enjoy the confidence of the Assembly.“After all, disposal of the motion under Article 179(c), would take no time at all. As soon as the motion is moved, on the floor of the House, the decision thereon will emerge, forthwith. Why would a Speaker who is confident of his majority, fear a floor test? After his position as Speaker is affirmed, he would assuredly and with conviction, deal with the disqualification petitions, under the Tenth Schedule. And, why should a Speaker who is not confident of facing a motion, for his removal, have the right to adjudicate upondisqualification petitions, under the Tenth Schedule?” the Supreme Court had said in Nabam Rebia.This interpretation would mean defection is followed by an immediate floor test and not proceedings of the Tenth Schedule. A floor test is the ultimate step in ascertaining majority in the House, but legal experts have criticised that 2016 interpretation saying it would not lead to ascertaining “real majority” that is determined after punishing defecting MLAs.