12 November 2019
Mumbai: Though the imposition of President's Rule in Maharashtra on Tuesday took all political parties by surprise, hectic politicking continued among various contenders here to cobble up a viable government to the satisfaction of Governor B.S. Koshyari.
Ranked among the most politically stable, this is only the third time Maharashtra has come under central rule in its 59-year old history.
Previously, the state witnessed spells of President's Rule for 112 days in February-June 1980, followed by 33 days in September-October 2014.
The latest President's Rule may have given a breather to the third largest political party after the October 21 Assembly elections - the Nationalist Congress Party - to finalise a mutually acceptable understanding with the Congress and also probably the Shiv Sena.
After the tenure of the previous assembly ended on November 9, Governor Koshyari moved into high gear for the government formation process by inviting the single-largest party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
However, on Sunday, the BJP, which has 105 members, expressed its inability to form the government as it could not muster the requisite number of a simple majority of 145 in the 288-member house.
On Sunday, the Governor invited the Shiv Sena which lost the race as it could not produce letters of support from the Congress-NCP which had already given their "in-principle" approval to a Sena-led government.
Koshyari also rejected the Sena request for a two-three days extra time to prove its support, and the party's delegation left Raj Bhavan empty-handed on Monday evening.
Late on Monday, the NCP was called and given time till 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday to indicate if it could form the government, but it is not clear whether it would go to Raj Bhavan at the appointed hour, now that the political scenario has suddenly changed.
This morning, the NCP also sought three days time more to prove its majority which was declined, said a party leader.
Within hours, the Governor submitted a report to the centre invoking Article 356 of the Constitution, recommending President's Rule which was approved by the Union Cabinet and later got the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind.
The move was sharply criticized by the Congress, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's Raj Thackeray, while the Sena has moved the Supreme Court challenging why it was not granted an extension of time to prove its majority.
Legal experts point out that since the newly-elected legislators have not been sworn-in by a Pro-Tem Speaker to be appointed by the Governor, there is no legislature in existence, so there's no question of putting it under "suspended animation" for the period of President's Rule.
"Since the house has not been constituted, how can any other measures take effect. Things will move forward only after any party/group is able to prove its majority before the Governor and convince that they can form a government," one expert pointed out.
The NCP Legislature Party chief and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar expressed confidence that once the party is able to prove its majority, a new government would be sworn-in soon.
NCP National Spokesperson Nawab Malik, however, sounded a word of caution when he said this afternoon that it is not possible for the NCP to form the government as it does not enjoy a majority, without the support of the Congress and Shiv Sena.