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After 19 days in limbo, Maharashtra sees President’s rule

President Ram Nath Kovind signed the proclamation approving the Union Cabinet’s recommendation to impose President’s rule and keep the legislative assembly under suspended animation on the evening of November 12.

Nov 13, 2019, 07.10 AM IST
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MUMBAI|NEW DELHI: President’s rule was imposed in Maharashtra as attempts to form a government failed, with no party able to cobble up a majority even 19 days after the assembly election results were declared.

President Ram Nath Kovind signed the proclamation approving the Union Cabinet’s recommendation to impose President’s rule and keep the legislative assembly under suspended animation on Tuesday evening.

Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had recommended President’s rule in the state well before Tuesday’s 8.30 pm deadline given to the Nationalist Congress Party, which sought more time to explore government formation.

Upon submission of the governor’s report, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an emergency meeting of the Union Cabinet before he left for the BRICS Summit in Brazil.

“The cabinet considered the report of the governor and made a recommendation to the President to issue a proclamation under Article 356 (1) of the Constitution,” said a home ministry spokesperson.

Koshyari, in his report to President Kovind, said he had invited three political parties in an attempt to form the government in the state. “Unfortunately, his attempts to form a stable government failed,” official sources said.

In a late night order, the President directed that all functions of the Maharashtra state government and all powers vested in or exercisable by the governor that were assumed by the President would also be exercisable by the governor of the state.

The BJP, which won the largest number of seats in the elections, was the first to be invited, but declined the offer. The Shiv Sena was then given the chance and after it sought more time, the governor asked the NCP, which confirmed it had written to the governor’s office on Tuesday morning seeking an additional 48 hours as it wanted to discuss the possibility of forming a government with the Congress.

The Shiv Sena said it would challenge the imposition of President’s rule in the state. The party had earlier filed a case in the Supreme Court, challenging the governor’s decision to give it only 24 hours to form the government. Although the Congress and NCP are still trying to form a government, the political conundrum may take time to be resolved with both parties playing tough with the Shiv Sena.

After meeting for more than two hours on Tuesday, Congress leaders including Ahmed Patel and NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the two parties would be talking to each other on government formation. “First, we would discuss issues amongst each other and then only it would be decided whether to go principally with the Sena,” Patel said, adding that the issues including a common minimum programme would be discussed.

Pawar said discussions on a common minimum programme and other contentious issues have not yet started and only after they are ironed out satisfactorily will the government be formed.

“The governor has given us a lot of time. We are in no hurry. We have six monthsnow,” Pawar commented wryly, referring to President’s rule in the state. “The issue of distribution of power is not before us. First, we have to decide whether the government has to be made or not and on what issues and what would be the agenda.”

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, at a separate press conference later, said forming agovernment is not “child’s play” and a “joke” and that the Congress, NCP and Sena needed time.

“The Congress and NCP are discussing some issues. I have certain issues which we will place before them. We will discuss it with them. It will take time, especially with different ideologies coming together,” he said. Asked about the BJP and Sena teaming up in the next few months, he said, “There is no use talking hypothetically. We have six months. It is the BJP that finished the alliance. It is the BJP that ended it. I was going to end the alliance before the Lok Sabha elections, but the BJP approached me.”

BJP leader Narayan Rane said the party is still trying to form the government and get the numbers to 145.

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, saying destruction due to unseasonal rains was the biggest issue for the state and “I expect all the parties to take this situation seriously and I hope a stable government will be formed soon.”

Although the Congress has agreed to join acoalition with the NCP and the Sena, there are a number of roadblocks. “None of the two parties has shared power with the Sena. So there are questions for which we would need answers. Our voters will ask questions,” NCP leader Ajit Pawar said. He added that to ensure the stability of the government, the Congress needs to be a part of the NCP-Sena government and not support it from the outside.

With the state under President’s rule, the BJP may see an opening if the three parties are unable to reach an agreement. Alternatively, a delay in forming the government may make the Shiv Sena more amenable to an alliance with the BJP, under pressure from its MLAs. However, Sena leaders claimed that Uddhav Thackeray is “extremely hurt” with the BJP and is unlikely to go back to its former ally.

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