Maharashtra: Was it really ‘Koshyari ka Hoshyari’?

By Ashwin Tombat
07 December 2019 10:05 IST

As dawn broke on Saturday 23 November, newspapers being delivered to houses announced that Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray would be Maharashtra’s next chief minister heading a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance. The three parties had decided to jointly stake their claim to form the government.

On the other side of midnight, the BJP was working overtime. President’s Rule was revoked at 5:47am. At 7.50am, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as chief minister by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, with the NCP’s Ajit ‘Dada’ Pawar as his deputy. It was a pre-dawn coup.   

But events have come full circle. Uddhav Thackeray is now the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

After becoming the first Maharashtra CM in nearly four decades to complete a full five-year term, Devendra Fadnavis set another ‘record’ – the CM with the shortest tenure in Maharashtra's history. 

Did Ajit Pawar actually revolt against his uncle, Sharad Pawar, or was it all a drama secretly orchestrated by the wily Maratha leader? We may never know, since the ‘rebel’ is now back in the NCP and is lobbying to become Deputy CM in the new dispensation.

But the public picture is of Mr Pawar standing strong, removing his nephew from party leadership, rallying his forces, winning back Ajit Dada’s supporters, invoking the age-old Maratha spirit of never bowing before the ‘Delhi Takht’, and teaching the BJP an unforgettable lesson in ‘Pawar Politics’.

Devendra Fadnavis had allied with the same person he had publicly declared would go to jail for corruption. A video of Mr Fadnavis dramatically declaring in a public meeting that Ajit Pawar would spend his days “chakki pissing, pissing, pissing” in jail, went viral on social media.

The BJP had managed to grab power in Goa and Manipur earlier, using similar tactics of shock and awe. But Sharad Pawar openly declared: “This is not Goa!” The BJP came a cropper as the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress were all fighting a battle for their very existence.

Maharashtra was put under President’s Rule on 12 November. The assembly elections gave the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance a comfortable majority. But the Sena refused to join the government unless it was given a 50-50 share in portfolios as well as its own CM for two-and-a-half years.

Sena leaders claimed that BJP President Amit Shah had made this promise when the alliance for the April-May Lok Sabha election was agreed. Mr Shah kept significantly silent on the issue. The BJP’s calculated gamble that the Shiv Sena would compromise went awry.

President’s Rule is generally revoked after a recommendation by the Union cabinet. In the case of Maharashtra, the central government invoked Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules to revoke President’s Rule in the dead of night, without holding a Cabinet Meeting.

Rule 12 states: “Departure from Rules – The Prime Minister may, in any case or classes of cases, permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.” This rule is framed under Article 77 of the Constitution, which empowers the President to make rules for convenient transaction of government business.

Interestingly, this is also the very same rule that was invoked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975, to declare a state of Emergency and send all opposition leaders to jail, without consulting her cabinet.

Rule 12 was also invoked for the re-organisation of Jammu & Kashmir into the union territories of J&K and Ladakh on 31 October 2019. The Cabinet gave post-facto approval on 20 November 2019.

This provision is reserved for situations of “extreme urgency or unforeseen contingency in any particular case”. Was there any such contingency in any of the three cases above?

Legality is not the same as legitimacy. The actions of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have been ‘legal’. But were they legitimate and proper?

Whether the Sena-NCP-Congress government, with its wide spectrum of ideological diversity, can survive a full term remains to be seen. But the tactics of smash and grab to subvert the popular verdict in a democracy must be condemned.  

But, even after the public humiliation, not much seems to have changed. Governor Koshyari, who asked Mr Fadnavis of the BJP to seek a floor test in a ‘susegad’ 14 days, has ordered Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority by 3 December.

Koshyari ka Hoshyari’ continues… Or was it all Mr Amit Shah’s work?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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