The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 24-06-2022 | 05:45 am
The still-unfolding scenes of the dramatic political crisis in Maharashtra, stretching from Mumbai to Guwahati via Surat, frame a government in freefall in an important state, and its rippling echoes. The Uddhav Thackeray government would appear to be coming undone by, on the one end, its own weakness, the inability or unwillingness or both of a family-run party to accommodate the rising ambitions within, and on the other end, by its partner-turned-foe’s aggressive fishing in murky waters. That the Sena rebels who have rallied behind Eknath Shinde have been ferried and locked into hotels in BJP-ruled states, first Gujarat and now Assam, tells its own story. There has been visible rancour between the Sena and BJP ever since 2019 assembly election, in which the BJP emerged as the single largest party but after which the two long-standing allies went their separate ways. The rift inaugurated a battle over the “real” flagbearer of Hindutva against the arresting backdrop of the country’s financial capital. At that time, the Sena went on to join hands with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress, and formed a coalition government. Now the Shinde-led group of rebels are pointing to that unlikely alliance and the need to go back to a solo, undiluted Hindutva as reason for their revolt, but they protest too much. After all, unlikely alliances are not unusual in Indian politics and, time and again, power has proved to be a strong glue. In all likelihood, therefore, the current unravelling in Mumbai has more to do with a Sena, having lost Bal Thackeray, finding it difficult to hold together and a BJP, in power at the Centre and not above weaponising its control of central agencies against political rivals and opponents, that is seizing the opportunity.In the coming days, the prospect of a vertical split in the Sena, and the endgame for the Uddhav Thackeray government, will pose a test for the institutions of the Speaker and Governor. The Deputy Speaker — since the Maharashtra assembly does not have a full-time Speaker since 2020 — could be called upon to assess the claims and counter claims and determine the status of the Sena factions under provisions of the anti-defection law. The governor could play a critical role in resolving the political instability, even as, after the Bommai judgement in 1994, the Supreme Court has laid down that the place for deciding whether a government has lost its majority is the floor of the assembly, not Raj Bhavan.The fate of the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra will also send signals that resonate beyond the state. With less than two years to go for the general election in 2024, and given that the Opposition is struggling to rally together to put up a fight against a formidable and predatory BJP, the loss of a crucial state will be consequential. Maharashtra, which has been one of the most prominent sites in the fight against Covid — during which, incidentally, the Uddhav Thackeray government kept a remarkably calm head — is now, amid the political tug and pull, again ground zero.
MUMBAI: Shiv Sena is preparing to move the Supreme Court if governor B S Koshyari asks CM Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly. According to reports, a section of independent legislators may approach Koshyari, saying they have withdrawn support to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, following which it has lost its majority. At the time of formation of the MVA government, these independent legislators had extended support to Thackeray. If they approach the governor, Koshyari will have no option but to ask Thackeray to prove his majority. Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said he was not aware if a petition has been filed before Kolshyari, but if he directs the CM to prove his majority, Sena will approach the Supreme Court. During the course of hearing of the petition filed by rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, the Supreme Court had observed that the deputy speaker of the legislative assembly cannot disqualify the rebel legislators till July 12. "Our information is that the SC has ordered status quo. Further, the court orally declined to pass any order in connection with the no- confidence motion. So it is expected that Raj Bhavan will not ask the CM to prove his majority on the floor of the house. If directions are issued for a floor test, then Sena will approach SC," Sawant said. Read AlsoMeet the 'coterie' that rebels blame for Sena's troublesMany Sainiks have blamed the breakdown of communication between them and the top leadership for the trouble that the party finds itself. Here are some of the people, Sainiks believe, were responsible for the snapPublic works minister Ashok Chavan said since the SC has ordered status quo, he does not think Raj Bhavan will order a floor test. "In my opinion, it is a sub-judice matter. Everyone will have to wait till July 12," he said. Former CM Prithviraj Chavan too felt it would be wrong to ask the CM to hold a floor test. "There were three main issues before the apex court: disqualification of legislators who defied the party whip, no- confidence motion against deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal and appointment of Shiv Sena legislature party leader Ajay Choudhary. I feel that in view of the clear legal position, Raj Bhavan will not ask the CM to prove his majority on the floor of the house," he said. Read AlsoWhat if Uddhav's softness is tactical?All his life, Uddhav had been described as too soft to run Shiv Sena. His record of winning elections and party battles, however, says something elseThe MVA's lawyer Devdutt Kamat had contended in SC that till the pendency of the petition, Raj Bhavan should be restrained from asking the CM to prove his majority. The apex court declined to pass an order but gave liberty to Sena to approach it if it is aggrieved by any order.
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.
At 23 per cent, the Covid positivity rate in Pune in the week ending June 27 was twice that of Maharashtra, according to a state health department report. The Covid weekly positivity rate for Mumbai and Thane in the period was recorded at 16 per cent each.At present, Maharashtra’s weekly Covid positivity rate stands at 12 per cent.According to data, Mumbai has shown an 11 per cent decline in new Covid infections in the week June 21-27 with 12,479 cases being detected vis a vis 14,089 in the preceding week. In contrast, Pune has shown a 66 per cent rise in new Covid infections in the week June 21-27 with 3,583 cases being detected as compared to 2,157 in the preceding week.Experts say there has to be a sustained decrease in the number of cases in the next three to four weeks to affirm whether cases have peaked and are now showing a decline. “This can be anecdotal but patients who contacted me last week with symptoms like fever, cold and cough have tested positive for Covid. A number of them are using rapid antigen tests to get quick results,” Dr Sanjay Pujari, infectious diseases consultant, said.Tally of BA.3, BA.4 patients reaches 63According to the latest report from the National Institute of Virology, seven patients of BA.5 and two of BA.4 variants of Omicron have been detected in the state. These include four from Palghar, three from Raigad and two from Thane from samples collected from May 31 to June 11. 🚨 Limited Time Offer | Express Premium with ad-lite for just Rs 2/ day 👉🏽 Click here to subscribe 🚨In all, there are 63 patients of BA.4 and BA.5 of which 15 are from Pune, 33 from Mumbai, four each from Nagpur, Thane and Palghar, and three from Raigad.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has lost majority in house and a floor test is in order, the BJP told the Governor this evening. The party delegation was led by Devendra Fadnavis, who headed for the meet on his return from Delhi. Here are the Top 10 points in this big story:"We have written to the Governor and told him that Shiv Sena's 39 MLAs are repeatedly saying they don't want to be in an alliance with the Congress-NCP. This means they are not with the government," Devendra Fadnavis told reporters after the meeting."So we have told the Governor that he should ask the Chief Minister to conduct a floor test and prove majority," he added.Mr Fadnavis -- the predecessor of Uddhav Thackeray on the top post -- headed for the Governor's House straight from the airport. He was accompanied by Girish Mahajan and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.In Delhi, Mr Fadnavis had a 30-minute strategy session with BJP chief JP Nadda this evening amid speculation about the party staking claim to form government.Earlier today, sources had said the Governor may ask Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove majority this week.The Team Thackeray had requested the Supreme Court that no floor test be allowed till the matter of disqualification notices to 17 rebel MLAs be settled. The court has refused to pass orders on it.In a day of fast-paced developments, Mr Thackeray sought a meeting with the rebels on their return to Mumbai, which is likely on Thursday."I want to appeal to you - time is still not lost. Please come, sit with me, remove all doubts from the minds of Shiv Sainiks and the public, then we can find a way out. We can sit together and find a way out," Mr Thackeray wrote.Eknath Shinde, who is leading the coup aganst Uddhav Thackeray, said that he would go to Mumbai "soon" and "take Balasaheb Thackeray's legacy forward", indicating that he is ready for the next move. He claims he has the backing of around 50 MLAs, nearly 40 of them from the Shiv Sena.The Shiv Sena has accused the BJP of masterminding the revolt and hounding its leaders using investigating agencies. Uddhav Thackeray's key spokesperson, Sanjay Raut, was summoned today by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case but he refused to go. Mr Raut terms the summons a conspiracy. Comments
◾ A tailor in Udaipur was hacked to death today by two persons allegedly for posting a social media statement in favour of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made controversial remarks about Prophet Mohammad. With the city tense following the murder, internet services have been suspended, and 600 police personnel along with senior officers are being sent to Udaipur. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has appealed for peace. “Strict action will be taken against all the criminals involved in this incident and the police will go to the bottom of the crime. I appeal to all parties to maintain peace,” he said.◾ Meanwhile, in Delhi, Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was sent to four-day police custody over a 2018 tweet that allegedly hurt religious sentiments. On Zubair’s arrest, Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: “The arrest of journalist Mohammed Zubair in Delhi is pettiness, vengeance and repression let loose on a society once aspiring to be free. It is also a distillation of the way in which the Narendra Modi government draws energy from a thorough contempt for liberty, decency, constitutional values, and the opinion of the international community.”◾ In Maharashtra, where the political turmoil refuses to abate, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appealed to rebel Shiv Sena MLAs to return, saying he is “worried” about them. “Don’t fall prey to anyone’s missteps. The honour given to you by Shiv Sena cannot be found anywhere. If you come forward and speak, we will sort out the issues. As Shiv Sena party chief and family head, I am still worried about you. Come here for a dialogue,” he said. His appeal came hours after Rebel leader Eknath Shinde said he will soon return to Mumbai.◾ In other news from the city, four people were killed after a helicopter operating for the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) made an emergency landing off the Mumbai coast. The chopper, with nine people on board, ditched in the sea 60 nautical miles away from Mumbai near Sagar Kiran rig on Tuesday morning.◾ In business news, the GST Council today approved changes in tax rates on some goods and services while allowing states to issue an e-way bill for intra-state movement of gold and precious stones. The Council, chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, also cleared a host of compliance procedures for GST-registered businesses along with a GoM report on high-risk taxpayers to check evasion.◾ Mukesh Ambani has resigned from the board of his group’s telecom arm, Reliance Jio and handed over the reins of the company to elder son Akash, a step seen as succession planning by the 65-year old billionaire. In a stock exchange filing, Reliance Jio Infocomm said the company’s board at a meeting on June 27, “approved the appointment of Akash M Ambani, non-executive director, as chairman of the board of directors of the company.”Political Pulse◾ The BJP is hoping for gains beyond the immediate in its storming of the Samajwadi Party bastions of Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha seats in the recent bypolls. The planning and strategy to secure the constituencies, supervised by senior leader Amit Shah as per sources, have punched holes in the SP’s confidence in its loyal Muslim-Yadav vote bank. The results also fit in with the BJP’s Mission 2024 plans, which it has already set in motion. With the SP having mounted a creditable challenge to it in the recent Assembly elections, the BJP knows the party as the one to beat in the state, and these two seats were its best chance of sending a message to the party. Liz Mathew reports.◾ From the Urdu Press: As a major political turmoil roiled Maharashtra with an intra-Shiv Sena power struggle pushing the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government to the brink, the country’s leading Urdu newspapers provided its saturation coverage in their news and commentary pages. In their reporting and analysis, they also focused on the July 18 Presidential election, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Zakia Jafri’s appeal challenging the SIT’s clean chit to the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 Gujarat riots, spotlighting the subsequent arrests of activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad and ex-DGP RB Sreekumar.Express Explained◾ ‘Hermit’ is the latest sophisticated spyware in the news, and it is believed to have targeted iPhones and Android devices in Italy and Kazakhstan. Hermit’s deployment – the spyware has been developed by an Italian vendor called RCS Lab – was first reported by cyber security researchers at the Lookout, a San-Francisco-based cybersecurity firm. What is Hermit, what exactly does it do on a device, and how can users keep themselves safe? We explain.◾ The G7 countries, who are meeting during the ongoing Leaders’ Summit in Germany, have officially launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a joint initiative to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries. The project, launched on June 27, is being seen as the bloc’s counter to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative. What is PGII, where are funds being directed under the plan, and what has been China’s response to the announcement? Read here.