CM Uddhav Thackeray survives chair scare, Shiv Sena thanks Centre

Updated: May 02, 2020, 08:00 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

No need of governor's nomination as ECI declares biennial polls on May 21, six days before Thackeray must become a 'legislator'

Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray

Backdoor talks between the BJP and Shiv Sena have eased CM Uddhav Thackeray's entry into the state legislative council as the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday gave a nod to filling the nine vacancies in LC on May 21, six days before Thackeray must become a member of the legislature.

Friday's development came after Thackeray sought help from BJP's top bosses PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah after Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari refused to change his position of not nominating the CM despite allegations of conspiracy and politicising the constitutional office in denying Thackeray a nomination for a brief time.

The development also gave out a message, especially to Sena's partners Congress and Nationalist Congress Party that the BJP might still have a soft corner for its estranged ally. The other interpretation that came from the Opposition is that the BJP was concerned about facing public wrath if it collapsed the government in the time of grave health crisis.

Sources said that Thackeray called up Modi two days ago following Governor Koshyari's refusal to accept the Cabinet recommendation that the CM should be nominated to the upper house despite reiteration of the demand by the Maha Vikas Aghadi. Sources said that Koshyari wrote to the ECI asking for conducting the polls in a relaxed lockdown. Thackeray also sent his emissaries to Raj Bhavan with a similar demand, albeit a couple of hours after the governor's house had already told the media about the recommendation. Congress and NCP also wrote to the ECI seeking elections.

ECI said in a release that the Maharashtra Chief Secretary has pointed out the various measures taken to control the pandemic and that in the State Government's assessment, elections could be held in a safe environment. It said it had reviewed past precedents in such unforeseen situations wherein the ECI had to hold by-elections to facilitate membership for the two PMs and several CMs.

Guv's nominees never made CM

In December, Koshyari had rejected two similar recommendations saying he would not allow the vacancies to be filled when they would expire within six months.

He cited a reason that the by-elections or mid-term nominations were not recommended when the terms are expected to end very soon. In Thackeray's case, the cabinet's recommendation was challenged on constitutional points in the Bombay High Court and also contested on moral grounds in political circles because the governor's nominees have not been made CMs in the past.

Polling on May 21

The ECI has now scheduled the elections for May 21. The 288 Assembly members (MLAs) would be the electoral college for the elections to the nine vacancies created on April 24.

The MLAs would vote in a secret ballot if polling is required. A notification would be issued on May 4 and nominations would close on May 11. The counting of votes would be done immediately after the polling which is scheduled between 9 am and 4 pm. The entire election process will end by May 26.

However, several politicians from the BJP and MVA said polling would not be required because the parties would reach an agreement to make the contest unopposed. This means there would be nine nominees for nine vacancies of which the BJP could win four and five could go to MVA.

"In normal circumstances, such polls evoke political excitement and also give rise to horse-trading unlike the Rajya Sabha polls (also voted by MLAs) which don't have the possibility of cross-voting. There have been big upsets in the past," said an MVA leader.

'No more speculations'

Sena leader Sanjay Raut thanked the ECI and the Centre. "Today's decision has stopped all speculations and rumours of political instability in the time of crisis. The Union Government and ECI have saved a big state like Maharashtra from an impending political crisis when all are fighting the pandemic," he said.

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