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Thursday 2 July 2020

Uddhav needs Modi’s help to save his chief ministry

If the governor does not help, Uddhav Thackeray is going to be the first chief minister in India to resign for not being able to become a member of either legislative house of his state in time

The office of Maharashtra Chief Minister may not retain its current occupant, as Uddhav Thackeray, who had ascended the ‘throne’ without winning an election to qualify, is not yet a member of the state legislature. No election is going to be held due to the coronavirus-necessitated lockdown.

Now the governor alone can save Thackeray’s position. That, in effect, means until this state of limbo is addressed, the Centre or BJP is in a bargaining position.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena may make someone else chief minister for the time being.

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has now put the ball in the court of Election Commission (EC), postponing the decision to nominate Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray as MLC. Koshiyari sent a letter to the EC, requesting it to announce elections for nine vacant seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council at the earliest.

Now, if the EC accepts the governor’s request, elections may be held before 28 May.

In his letter, Governor Koshyari told the EC that the central government had announced several exemptions and measures during the lockdown in the country. Some guidelines may be issued for holding elections for the vacant seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council.

Koshyari stated that since Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is not a member of any House of the State Legislature and needs to be elected to the Council before 27 May 2020. The EC should, therefore, make a decision as soon as possible, he wrote.

In November 2019, the Shiv Sena had quit the alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and formed the government with the INC and NCP. While Uddhav was pushing his son Aaditya at that moment, the NCP refused to accept a first-time MLA as chief minister.

Uddhav Thackeray was neither an MLA nor MLC at the time. According to the constitution, if a person takes the oath of office as a minister or a chief minister, he has to be elected a member of either legislative house within six months.

Uddhav Thackeray had presumed he would be elected in the MLC election to be held in April. However, the elections were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak that has now taken the shape of an epidemic in Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in India.

Thackeray Sr can save his position only if Governor Koshyari nominates him from his quota of seats.

Till now, Koshyari has been non-committal about nominating Thackeray Sr. The state cabinet has meanwhile passed a resolution and appealed to the governor to nominate Uddhav as an MLC.

After receiving no response, the leaders of the coalition called Maha Vikas Aghadi visited the governor again. They still received no reply, That was when Uddhav called Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help.

If the governor does not agree, Uddhav Thackeray will have to resign. The coalition government will then have only one option: that of electing a replacement of Thackeray from the MLAs they have. Since the Shiv Sena is assured of the top seat, the party will forward Aaditya’s name.

Of course, once the lockdown is lifted, Uddhav Thackeray can contest an election, become an MLC and take the oath of chief minister again.

Six months ago, Aaditya Thackeray was the face of Shiv Sena. Father Uddhav Thackeray himself stayed away from grabbing a seat. Aaditya was, in fact, the initial cause of the Shiv Sena-BJP discord. Finally, the NCP did not accept Aaditya as chief minister either.

Shiv Sena and NCP are almost equal partners in this alliance that also has the INC as an ally. The NCP could stake its claim on chief minister’s chair but for the deal that the three parties struck for the coalition, by which the Shiv Sena will occupy the CMO for five years.

Uddhav Thackeray will be the first chief minister in India who will have to resign for not being able to become an MLC in time (six months).

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