If COVID-19 wasn’t enough, Uddhav’s chair is at risk as he is yet to be nominated to the Legislative Council
When Uddhav Thackeray became Chief Minister of Maharashtra after a political drama last November, one which saw Shiv Sena snap ties with the BJP and helped him emerge as the consensus choice of the alternative coalition he engineered with Sharad Pawar and the Congress, he had not bargained for the thorns in his way. First, the BJP, the ideological anchor of the Sangh Parivar, was extremely upset with its junior partner for stealing the thunder on the basis of its improved performance and negotiating chief ministership with the Opposition. It was but expected that it would place hurdles along the way of a coalition that was more about convenience of numbers than conviction of purpose, that was about power play than about a legacy of governance. If there was any legacy at all, it was only about Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s wish of seeing a Sainik as Chief Minister. In his first administrative role, Uddhav had no time to settle in as the State recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 9, posing a severe challenge to the State’s healthcare system. And before he could get a grip on it, Maharashtra became the State with the highest number of COVID-19 patients across India. Then the exodus of migrant labourers caught him by surprise, a fact played up by the BJP as an example of his administrative ineptitude and poor foresight. Still, Uddhav did not lose his cool and went in for aggressive containment, testing and medical protocols as Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavi, has put him on trial. But he can clear that test provided he is allowed to. His major worry now is retaining the chair of the Chief Minister as his six months are almost up and he is yet to get nominated or elected to the House. In this grim scenario, he would have to resign his post.
Since he had not contested the Assembly election, according to Article 164 of the Constitution, he has to be elected as a legislator within six months from the date of appointment as CM. Uddhav will be completing six months on May 28. And though he could have been elected to the legislative council, polls for which had been scheduled for March 26 along with the Rajya Sabha election, the outbreak stalled everything. Assembly is no option either with the Election Commission suspending operations till further notice. Of course, the Maharashtra Cabinet resorted to the last strategy, recommending that Uddhav be nominated to the legislative council on the Governor’s quota. But BJP Governor Koshiyari, who technically cannot overturn a State Cabinet proposal, is yet to act on it and can by delaying, give the Chief Minister some anxious moments. According to Article 171 of the Constitution, the Governor can use his quota to nominate one-sixth of the total strength to the legislative councils, and can nominate Uddhav too. However, there is no timeline mentioned. This is so not desirable at a moment of crisis but if the time period lapses, then the Governor would have to again invite Uddhav and administer an oath. That would be not just a procedural nightmare in times of COVID but also politically, make Uddhav eat humble pie. Would the BJP let him know of its upper hand in the matter? Koshiyari had acted against Uddhav before, too, hurriedly administering the oath to Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister before Uddhav could stake his claim. But political posturing now, at the State’s gravest hour of crisis, would not show Raj Bhavan in a good light. The Sena is already whipping up a campaign against the delay. But one thing is clear, the BJP and Shiv Sena are not going to let each other rest easy going forward.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)