It was a day of high political drama, suspense, allegations of backstabbing and deceit in Maharashtra on Saturday (November 23, 2019). Early morning brought the news of a stunning political coup by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which roped in Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar and his loyal MLAs to stake a claim for government formation in the state.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis took oath as Maharashtra Chief Minister for the second consecutive term on Saturday morning while Ajit Pawar was sworn in as his deputy. The oath ceremony was administered by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at the Raj Bhawan. "People had given us a clear mandate, but Shiv Sena tried to ally with other parties, as a result, President's Rule was imposed. Maharashtra needed a stable government, not a 'khichdi' government," Fadnavis said after taking oath as Maharashtra CM.
The development had come at a time when the talks between Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena over government formation in Maharashtra seemingly reached the final stage on Friday.
"From result day to this day, no party was able to form the government, Maharashtra was facing many problems including farmer issues, so we decided to form a stable government," Ajit Pawar, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar's nephew, said after taking oath as the deputy CM.
However, after Ajit Pawar was sworn in as the deputy chief minister, Sharad Pawar publicly snubbed his nephew and said the decision to support the BJP was not backed by him and he and his party do not endorse it.
As the day progressed, allegations and counter-allegations from an elated BJP-led camp on one side and the stunned Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine on the other continued thick and fast.
The NCP on Saturday evening removed Ajit Pawar as the party's legislature unit leader, hours after he joined hands with the BJP. Ajit Pawar's actions defied the party's policies, said a resolution passed at the legislature wing's meeting, attended by Sharad Pawar. State NCP chief Jayant Patil will have all the constitutional rights till the next legislature party leader is elected, it said.
Fuming over the dramatic turn of events, the three parties on Saturday also moved the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing on their petition against the "arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions" of Maharashtra Governor's Bhagat Singh Koshyari of inviting BJP's Devendra Fadnavis to form the state government on November 23.
A three-judge bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna has agreed to hear the petition at 11:30 am on Sunday.
Senior Advocate Devadutt Kamat for Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena today said that the Maharashtra Governor's invite to BJP's Devendra Fadnavis to form the government and the oath-taking ceremony was illegal and sought quashing of his decision to swear-in BJP's Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister.
"In the petition, we have said that without any majority of Fadnavis and the BJP, the governor has called and installed him as the Chief Minister," Kumat said. The petitioners alleged that the governor has acted in a "partisan manner" and has allowed himself to be a "pawn in the BJP's illegal usurpation of power".
The writ petition said it has been "filed by the petitioners assailing the ex-facie arbitrary and malafide actions/decisions dated 23.11.2019 of the Honourable Governor of the State of Maharashtra in ‘purportedly inviting’ the state BJP led by Shri Devendra Fadnavis to form the government in the state and subsequently administering him the oath of office as the chief minister of Maharashtra".
The plea said that after comprehensive talks, the three parties finalised a common minimum programme for a post-poll alliance, and on November 22, it was announced that Uddhav Thackeray would be the alliance's chief ministerial candidate.
"Facing the prospect of a non-BJP government staking claim to power, the BJP in the intervening night of 22.11.2019 and 23.11.2019 has resorted to political machinations in an attempt to install a completely unconstitutional BJP government in the state... There is nothing in the public domain as to how and in what manner Shri Devendra Fadnavis and/or the BJP had staked claim to power between the intervening night of 22.11.2019 and 23.11.2019," the three parties said in their petition.
In their petition, they have requested the Supreme Court to call a special session of the 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Sunday and sought urgent direction for a floor test to be conducted tomorrow itself, to avoid "further horse-trading".
The political parties also want the court to further direct the governor to invite them since they have the “majority”, or the support of more than 144 MLAs to form a coalition government in the state.
After Ajit Pawar exit, fissures were created in the NCP. However, on Saturday evening, the party claimed that out of nine rebel MLAs, five have come back to the leadership of party chief Sharad Pawar while six, including Ajit Pawar, have still not come around. With this, out of 54 NCP MLAs in the 288-member assembly of Maharashtra, NCP claims to have the support of 48 MLAs in total while six MLAs are supporting Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The BJP won 105 seats in the 288-member assembly followed by Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44. After none of the major parties failed to stake claim to form the government, President's Rule was imposed in the state.
On Saturday morning, after Maharashtra Governor informed President Ram Nath Kovind that BJP has staked the claim to form the government in Maharashtra with the support of Ajit Pawar, President's Rule was revoked in the state.