The Indian Express | 5 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 02:45 pm
The Opposition in Assam hit out at the BJP government for indulging in “petty politics” at a time when the state has been hit by devastating floods.Several opposition leaders talked about Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde’s arrival at Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport early Wednesday. The dissident leader accompanied by a group of MLAs and independent legislators was received by BJP MP from Assam Pallab Lochan Das and MLA Sushanta Borgohain.Sushmita Dev, the TMC MP from Silchar — which has been submerged in water for the last 72 hours — said that the BJP government had its priorities wrong. “There is a crisis in Silchar right now — there is no drinking water, there is no electricity, no boats for rescue …people are living on their roofs,” she said. “In the middle of all this, the chief minister of Assam is busy poaching MLAs, and putting them up in five-star hotels. This is really bad.”On Wednesday, even as the rain abated in Assam, the state continued to reel under floodwaters. According to a release from the disaster management authority, 55 lakh in 32 districts are currently affected. On Tuesday, seven more people died, taking the death toll this year to 88.“At a time when lakhs are affected, thousands are battling for their lives, the BJP government has made the state the epicentre of its petty politics,” said regional party Assam Jatiya Parishad’s Jagadish Bhuyan. Congress Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia said the chief minister was elected to “serve the people of Assam.” “But while the state is convulsed in floods, he is wasting time in petty politics,” he said.Earlier, Borgohain, who is the Thowra MLA, told reporters that he was at the airport to “receive friends”. “Two-three of my friends called me up so I came to receive them…They have not disclosed what program they have. I came to the airport as a courtesy visit,” he said.Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters that he was not privy to much information on the developments. “I am busy with flood relief work. Right now I’m heading to Kampur (Nagaon)… Tomorrow I will head to Silchar,” he said, adding that there were some “legislator friends” and he may meet them for “five to ten minutes.”When asked about the developments, Sarma quipped that it was “positive” that people were visiting the state despite the floods. “Since we are inundated, all hotel rooms are empty and the state is facing financial difficulties. Now if tourists from across the country come and stay in a hotel, it will only benefit us,” he said.BJP Rajya Sabha MP Pabitra Margherita added that all people were “welcome” in Assam — whether they are politicians or pilgrims to attend the ongoing Ambubachi at the Kamakhya temple. “For us, the flood relief is the priority – not just chief minister, cabinet ministers and legislators, each and every BJP party worker is involved in rescue operations 24X7,” he said.At the airport, while speaking to reporters, Shinde said that they were “committed” to Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology of ‘Hindutva’. “We want to take it forward,” he said adding: “We all arrived in Guwahati…I have 40 Shiv Sena MLAs with me. I cannot comment on anybody.”Shinde said that they were “committed” to Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology of ‘Hindutva’. “We want to take it forward,” he said adding: “We all arrived in Guwahati…I have 40 Shiv Sena MLAs with me. I cannot comment on anybody.”The Shiv Sena MLAs were ferried to a luxury hotel in Guwahati in three buses, amid heavy police protection. As of Wednesday afternoon, the MLAs are said to be at a meeting in the hotel, which is also surrounded by tight security.
The political crisis in Maharashtra has given rise to the question whether the Shiv Sena rebels can avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.Law and exceptionUnder the anti-defection law, a member of a legislature can be disqualified if he or she has voluntarily given up membership of their political party; and if he/she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by their party (or by any person or authority authorised by the party).There is a provision to protect such legislators from disqualification. If two-thirds of the members agree to a merger with another party, they will not be disqualified. Under the 91st Amendment to the Constitution in 2003, the exemption from disqualification if one-third of the members form a separate group (the rule prior to the amendment) was removed.How courts have ruledIn February this year, the High Court of Bombay at Goa held that 10 Congress MLAs and two two MGP MLAs, who had defected to the BJP in 2019, are exempted from disqualification and held that a merger of this group of Congress MLAs is “deemed to be a merger” of the original political party with the BJP (Girish Chodankar v Speaker, Goa Legislative Assembly).In Rajendra Singh Rana v Swami Prasad Maurya (2007), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court interpreted the term “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party”, and held that “a person may be said to have voluntarily given up membership of an original party even though he or she has not tendered resignation from membership of the party” and that an inference can be drawn from conduct of the member.The two-thirds ruleSome experts believe that even if two-thirds of legislators have broken away, they will be protected from disqualification only if they merge with another party or become a separate group in the legislature.Senior advocate Devdatt Kamat, representing Shiv Sena, said that until the MLAs rebel camp merges with another party, disqualification under the anti-defection law will still apply to them. He said there are court judgements including in the Ravi Naik case (1994) in the Supreme Court which held this view.Senior advocate Shrihari Aney, a former Advocate General of Maharashtra, said there are debatable positions about the anti-defection law. “Various courts have passed verdicts as per specific facts of the case and I am of the view that the Eknath Shinde faction has already crossed the two-thirds mark and thus they cannot be subjected under this law and they are protected from the anti-defection law. They are entitled to be identified as a separate group or a ‘gat’ in the house and to participate in the proceedings.”Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxDisqualification noticesAnother issue that has arisen is whether the disqualification notices served on 16 rebel MLAs can stand the scrutiny of law. Experts said that as per the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on grounds of Defection) Rules and other stipulations, the Deputy Speaker’s decision cannot be upheld.Aney said, “In my opinion, the notices disqualifying some MLAs are void ab initio. The orders are premised on the ground that these MLAs did not attend the official meeting and did not adhere to the whip. But, a whip is limited only to the business of the legislature… Here it was for a meeting called by their president Uddhav Thackeray.”
MUMBAI: BJP on Monday finally opened up about the Eknath Shinde-led revolt in Shiv Sena, refusing to call that camp "rebels" and saying it was open to considering proposals on government formation from the faction. "We do not consider anyone a rebel. If two-thirds of the MLAs are with Shinde, how can they be called rebels?" asked senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, speaking after a meeting at Devendra Fadnavis' house. So far, BJP had termed the Sena turmoil an internal matter of the party and refused to comment on it. However, after Monday's Supreme Court order shielding the rebels, it immediately held a meeting of its state core committee. "Based on the Supreme Court order, whatever proposals (on government formation) come forward will be considered. BJP is closely watching the day-to-day events, the core committee will meet again and take a decision at the appropriate time in the interest of the state and its people," he added. "Shiv Sena group leader Eknath Shinde has so far not given us any proposal. Whenever a proposal comes from Shiv Sena - since they call themselves the true Sena - we shall consider it," he said. Mungantiwar added that at this point, BJP does not feel the need to ask for a floor test.
Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari on Monday hinted at toppling of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in the state in 2024 after doing the same in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.The BJP leader’s controversial statement came in the backdrop of a political turmoil in Maharashtra where the alliance party government is struggling stay afloat following withdrawal of support from a section of MLAs.Addressing party workers in Cooch Behar district on Monday, Adhikari said, “It won’t have to be in 2026 (next state Assembly polls). The ouster will take place in 2024. Just wait a little more. We will oust this government in 2024. This has just begun in Maharashtra. Next it will take place in Jharkhand and Rajasthan. After Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, we will reach West Bengal.”His remarks did not go down well with the ruling dispensation in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress slamming the BJP for its attempt to topple elected government in Opposition-ruled states.“This shows the BJP’s mindset when it comes to respecting democratic norms in the country. They want to grab power by any means and that’s what they have planned for all opposition-ruled states. But Suvendu Adhikari is living in a fool’s paradise. In 2024, the BJP will go out of power,” said TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh.
With the Supreme Court extending the deadline for them to file a response to disqualification notices, the Shiv Sena’s rebel group led by Eknath Shinde is learnt to be strategising to approach the Governor, informing him of their decision to withdraw support from the MVA, and thereby, prompting a floor test.Highly placed sources said, “The Shinde faction is likely to approach Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhawan, informing its decision to distance itself from Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.”Claiming to have 50 plus MLAs in its fold, Shinde camp’s decision to step out of MVA would raise a question on the numbers with Uddhav Thackeray led MVA government, which could find it difficult to prove its majority on the floor of the house if the rebel MLAs were to stick together, the sources added.The development has also sparked worries in the Sena with a senior leader pointing out: “While the Apex court has given two weeks’ time to the rebels to respond to disqualification notices served by deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal, our plea for disallowing floor test till July 11 was not considered.”Shinde camp’s confidence stems from its belief that it holds two-third majority in the Shiv Sena. At present, it is claiming support of 39 MLAs out of total 55 MLAs of the Sena. Besides, there are over 10 MLAs from smaller parties/independents with them. Their total support base has risen to over 50, the Shinde camp has claimed.The total strength of the state legislative assembly is 288 members, which has gone down to 287 with the death of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke last month. The halfway mark to form the government is 144.With Congress’s 44, NCP’s 53 and Sena’s 16 legislators, the aggregate strength of the allies stands at 111 — 33 short of the halfway mark. The number of independents/smaller parties adds up to 29 members, of which around 11 are with Shinde camp. Sources say that even if all the remaining 19 were to align with MVA, the figure still won’t cross 130.“Minus Shinde faction, MVA finds itself confronting the battle for survival in Maharashtra,” the source said.Expressing his happiness after the SC order, Shinde said, “It is a victory for Balasaheb’s Hindutva. We have always maintained that we have not walked out of Sena. Our fight is for the self respect of Sena.”Sources in the Shinde faction said, “A lot of deliberations are underway on the next course of action. We are still fighting for the rights to lead the Sena. With majority members with us, Shinde’s leadership in the party’s legislative assembly cannot be divested. We always wanted Sena to walk away from the Congress and the NCP.”Shinde’s son Shrikant alleged that the disqualification notice to his father and 15 MLAs were sent by the deputy speaker under pressure.Meanwhile, the BJP, which convened its core committee meeting at the residence of opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis on Monday, has decided to adopt “wait and watch” strategy. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “What is happening is an internal matter of Shiv Sena. We are also closely monitoring the developments.”Another senior leader, Sudhir Mungantiwar, said, “Shinde group is still not considering itself separate from Shiv Sena. At the same time, they have the support of a majority of members. So, we need to see how the situation evolves.”
MUMBAI: A week after the revolt began for control of Shiv Sena, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on Monday stripped all nine ministers from rebel leader Eknath Shinde's camp of their portfolios. They will remain ministers but without portfolios. By now, of the 14 ministers in the Thackeray-led government, only four including the chief minister, are from Shiv Sena. The others are industries minister Subhash Desai, transport minister Anil Parab and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray. They have all got additional portfolios. Monday's Supreme Court verdict protecting the rebel Sena MLAs from disqualification proceedings till July 12 led to speculation about whether a floor test is imminent. "The government is in a minority. The chief minister should leave the MVA government and join BJP. Then there will be no need for a floor test," rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar said. Sena's Aaditya Thackeray countered, "The rebels should come here, look into our eyes and tell us what we did wrong. That is our floor test." Congress member Balasaheb Thorat said, "No one has asked for a floor test. The CM has said 20 MLAs who are in Guwahati will back the government in the event of a trust vote." BJP's Sudhir Mungantiwar said the party will "wait and watch" and would consider such a proposal when it came. The cabinet reshuffle was prompted by concerns about work being held up. Also, by the onset of monsoon and the possibility of flooding or accidents, a press statement from Thackeray's office said. Under rule 6 of the rules of business, the chief minister has powers to re-allocate portfolio of a cabinet minister if he is not attending office since he is unwell or is not able to discharge duties. This is done to ensure works of public interest as well as routine work are not affected. Read AlsoEight ways to lose your political partyWhen politicians lose an election, they stand a chance of bouncing back in the next one. But what happens when they lose their party? It was initially decided to sack all nine rebel members, a bureaucrat said. But the Sena leadership dropped the proposal and decided to strip them of their portfolios. Meanwhile, rebel MLA Shamburaje Desai, who lost his junior minister portfolio, said, "We had no rights as junior ministers. The position was only in name. We were not able to get funds for our constituencies." Read AlsoDid Uddhav hear what BJP said about Shinde last summer?The Shiv Sena was casual about numerous signs of discontent brewing in the party. Was it over-confidence or power lulling a party into laziness?Security of Guwahati hotel housing rebel Sena MLAs tightened furtherSecurity inside and outside Radisson Blu hotel in Guwahati, where rebel Shiv Sena MLAs are camping, was upgraded to an impenetrable level on Monday, a day after the Centre provided Y+ category security cover of armed CRPF personnel to at least 15 of them, reports Prabin Kalita. Apart from a few top officers of Assam Police, a group of advocates were the only civilians allowed entry inside the hotel on Monday. In addition, crew members of several airlines that have agreements with the hotel were also allowed inside. Read AlsoWho owns brand Bal Thackeray: Saininks or the Thackerays?The rebel Shiv Sainiks led by Eknath Shinde have decided to call themselves Shiv Sena Balasaheb. This has opened a new front in their battle with Uddhav Thackeray – a brand warThe president of Shiv Sena unit in Manipur, M Tombi Singh, who had come to meet the rebel legislators, was stopped at the gates and then arrested after he was spotted talking to media outside the hotel gates. “I’ve come to talk to Eknath Shinde and tell him not to divide the party. Sena should remain as one party and we want the political crisis to end soon,” he said.