The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in Maharashtra is heading towards a Constitutional crisis, even as the state continues to be worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The state currently has over 9,300 Covid-19 cases and has reported 400 deaths so far, with capital Mumbai accounting for a huge percentage.
The story so far
Elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly were conducted in October 2019. The results resulted in a hung assembly after the pre-poll alliance of the BJP and Shiv Sena fell through.
After many rounds of uncertainty and twists and turns, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray became the Chief Minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition consisting of the Shiv Sena, Indian National Congress (INC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
He was sworn in as the Chief Minister on November 27, 2019, at the Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
What’s the issue?
As far as the State Governments are concerned, Article 164 (4) of the Indian Constitution lays down that a person who is appointed as a Minister/ Chief Minister of the State government and who is not a member of the State Legislature shall cease to be a Minister after a period of six months.
The above-mentioned proviso of the Article lays down that an individual needs to become a member of either house/houses of the State Legislature.
In Uddhav Thackeray’s case, he has to become a member of the State Legislature before May 27, 2020.
Maharashtra has a Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) and a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad).
Some members of the Legislative Council are nominated by the Governor of the state. These members nominated are usually people who have expertise in the fields of Arts, Science, Literature, Social Service, and Cooperative Movements.
If a member of either Houses of the State Legislature resigns, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is bound to conduct the by-elections to that seat/ constituency within six months.
Hence, even if a MLA resigns today, it may take up to six months for the ECI to conduct these polls.
Now coming to the Maharashtra Legislative Council, elections for nine seats were to have been held on April 24. However, in view of the situation regarding COVID-19, the ECI has now postponed these polls. Under normal circumstances, Thackeray would have contested these elections and become a member of the upper house of the state legislature.
A team of Ministers headed by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar on Tuesday met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and apprised him of the decision of the Council of Minister’s decision to nominate Thackeray as a member.
The Governor remained non-committal regarding the same. Normally, the Governor works, according to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, he can continue to sit on a decision and let it lapse.
The Maharashtra Government has approached the ECI to conduct the elections before May 20, 2020, and requested them to hurry up the entire process.
So what are the options before Uddhav Thackeray?
* Either Governor accepts his nomination and Thackeray becomes a nominated member of the Legislative Council.
* The ECI fixes an election date before May 27. If Thackeray wins, he can continue as CM.
* He resigns as the CM and appoints another person as the CM till the time he can win an election. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha had appointed O Paneerselvam as the CM when she was disqualified only to come back later.
* He approaches the Supreme Court and seeks relaxation in the 6 months deadline due to the prevailing situation in the state and the country.