President’s Rule was clamped in Maharashtra on Tuesday after governor BS Koshyari told the Centre that no party was in a position to form the government, capping nearly three weeks of political instability in the state and triggering criticism from the Opposition.
The Union home ministry said the customary six-month-long central rule could be revoked earlier if any party came forward to prove a majority in the state assembly.
The Shiv Sena, which has fallen out with pre-poll ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the chief minister’s position, approached the Supreme Court against Koshyari, saying the governor acted at the behest of the BJP.
A senior party leader said on condition of anonymity that a second petition would be filed early on Wednesday challenging the President’s Rule.
Koshyari sent his report to the Union home ministry after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which was invited to form the government on Monday night, asked for more time. The report was received around noon, and the governor’s recommendation was endorsed in a Cabinet meeting at 1.30pm. The BJP and the Sena had, previously, failed to come up with the requisite numbers within the prescribed deadlines.
“Keeping in view the situation, circumstances and ground realities, the governor is satisfied that the situation has arisen in the state of Maharashtra in which it is impossible to constitute and/ or form a stable government in the state,” Koshyari wrote in the report.
The impasse in Maharashtra began soon after the assembly election results threw up a hung House, with the BJP at 105 seats, the Sena at 56, the NCP at 54 and the Congress at 44. After the BJP declined to form the government on Saturday – and blamed the Sena for betraying the people’s mandate – the governor called the regional outfit.
The Sena’s bid was dependent on support from its erstwhile rivals, the NCP and Congress, but the latter said late on Monday evening that it needed more time.
But on Tuesday evening, there were indications that the three parties were inching towards an arrangement, especially from Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who said the Congress, the NCP and his party will soon work out a formula for government formation.
He criticised Koshyari for giving the Sena only 24 hours to prove a majority but said the imposition of President’s Rule would not prove an impediment to government formation. “We had asked for 48 hrs but the Governor gave us six months,” he said.
At a joint press conference, the Congress and the NCP said no call had been taken on an alliance with the Sena and that more discussions were required.
“There will discussion between the Congress and the NCP over the common minimum programme and other issues first before discussing it with the Sena. The decision over supporting the Sena will be taken once we arrived at the agreement over the policies and programmes,” said senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that by imposing President’s Rule, the governor had given ample time to discuss the formation of government.
“Our priority is clarity over programmes and policies. It is very important for the smooth running of government. Until we do not arrive at a consensus over them, it would be difficult for us to move forward …we have not discussed the sharing of power,” he added. All three parties also criticised Koshyari for recommending central rule and accused him of acting unfairly. “Governor Koshyari has committed a grave travesty of the democracy and made a mockery of the Constitutional process in recommending President’s Rule,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
In its petition, the Sena echoed this sentiment, saying the governor acted beyond the purview of his powers. “It is submitted that any imposition of Presidents Rule would also result in horse trading by the BJP and to somehow cobble up a majority by using unconstitutional means,” the petition read.
The BJP, however, blamed the Sena for pushing the state into instability with senior leader Narayan Rane saying the party will continue to try and form the government. “We will do whatever possible to form the government. I will assist my party in this process. I don’t think Sena can go with Congress-NCP. They (Sena) are being fooled,’’ he added.