Nagpur: The winter session of Maharashtra Assembly began on a stormy note on Monday with Opposition parties joining ranks to criticise re-induction of senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar as deputy Chief Minister.
Pawar had resigned in September in view of irregularities in irrigation projects in the state only to make a comeback last week.
As soon as the proceedings began, Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly Eknath Khadse raised a point of procedure (PoP) on re-induction of Pawar.
During first 30 minutes, the Lower House witnessed animated debate, with the Opposition claiming that the post of Deputy Chief Minister does not have a constitutional sanctity while citing a ruling of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court in this regard to target the ruling Democratic Front (DF) over Pawar`s comeback.
Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil after initially declining permission to members to speak on the point of procedure later allowed Khadse, Subhash Desai (Shiv Sena), Sudhir Mungattiwar (BJP) and Bala Nandgaonkar (MNS) from Opposition benches and Home Minister R R Patil, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Nawab Malik--all NCP---to express their views but withheld the ruling.
The opposition`s argument that the post of deputy CM was "unconstitutional" was countered by R R Patil and Nawab Malik saying that even the NDA during its rule in Maharashtra had appointed BJP leader Gopinath Munde for the post.
To this, Khadse recalled the speeches that had been delivered by R R Patil and Dilip Walse Patil on floor of House criticising Munde when he had sworn in as the deputy chief minister.
Opposing Pawar`s reinstatement, Khadse referred to the high court ruling which ruled out the scope for creating deputy CM`s post. Khadse was backed by his colleague Sudhir Mungattiwar and Subhash Desai of Shiv Sena.
The opposition leader demanded adjournment of proceedings saying it is a disrespect to the House as Pawar is holding the post of deputy chief minister.
Bala Nandgaonkar backed Khadse`s demand.
NCP on its part wheeled out heavyweights like R R Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal and Nawab Malik to take on the combative opposition.
In his reply, R R Patil said he "regrets the mistake" he had committed seventeen years ago by opposing creation of deputy CM`s post. "However, the House proceedings run on certain principles, customs and traditions and not merely on rules and procedures," he added.
Taking a dig at the opposition protesting against Pawar`s reinstatement, Patil said they were simply following the footsteps of the NDA which had appointed Munde as deputy CM during its rule.
Arguing for Pawar, who was not present in the House as he was attending the proceedings in the Legislative Council, Nawab Malik said his swearing-in was held after the approval from Governor who is the custodian of Constitution.
"As the governor administered the oath to Pawar at Raj Bhawan, there was nothing wrong in it," Malik said.
Bhujbal hit back at the saffron combine saying many states including the NDA-ruled Bihar, has a post of deputy chief minister who is from BJP.
Maharashtra has a long tradition of creating deputy CM`s post. Right from Nashikrao Tirpude (Congress), Ramrao Adik and Vijay Singh Mohite Patil (NCP) had occupied the post, Bhujbal who himself was the deputy chief minister said.
Bhujbal said in the past that even the post of deputy prime minister was represented by senior leaders.
Apparently not satisfied with the reply, Khadse said he wanted to know whether the high court ruling was binding on the state government or not.
Speaker Dilip Walse Patil, however, held back the point-of procedure.