Devendra Fadnavis says demand for her disqualification has no legal basis; Oppn seeks poll to elect chairman to settle the legal dispute triggered by her defection
Neelam Gorhe joined the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis on July 7
Neelam Gorhe’s position as the deputy chairperson of the Maharashtra legislative council is secure for the moment, as the deputy chief minister told the house on Tuesday that the anti-defection law does not apply to her. The Shiv Sena (UBT) had demanded the disqualification of Gorhe, who abandoned Uddhav Thackeray and joined Shinde-led Sena earlier this month. Sena (UBT) leaders Ambadas Danve and Anil Parab said since Gorhe had defected, she was liable for disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. They demanded that she be removed or kept away from duty until the matter was sorted.
Oppn insists on removal
Jayant Patil of Peasants and Workers Party of India argued that the post of the chairperson or the deputy chairperson is politically neutral, and hence a person holding it cannot exit or enter any party. He suggested that the chairman be elected immediately to decide the legal dispute, because the authority higher than Gorhe was not in office.
Calling it a constitutional crisis, Congress MLC Satej Patil said Gorhe’s statement about joining Shinde’s Sena and the chief minister’s tweet about her joining his faction had proved her defection. This qualifies her for disqualification, he added. Danve and Parab also demanded to know the status of a letter from the BJP that sought Gorhe’s removal before she switched sides. Presiding officer Niranjan Davkhare informed the house that the BJP’s letter was not accepted and hence it hadn’t become the house property.
A graduate in law, Fadnavis had come prepared to counter the claims of Sena (UBT). “There is no constitutional crisis because the laws are very clear. Removal and disqualification are two different things. Disqualification is a quasi judicial matter. Also, Gorhe is in the original Shiv Sena,” he said, insisting that the Tenth Schedule did not apply to Gorhe.
He said that if the presiding officer felt like giving a hearing in the matter, there were two options—“the house can either elect the chairman or appoint a member to conduct the hearing. In both cases, Gorhe can continue to officiate in her current capacity”.
BJP’s Sudhir Mungantiwar argued that Gorhe was in the Shiv Sena endorsed by the Election Commission. “Your claims are baseless. You should think about why people are leaving you,” he said. Davkhare put the matter on hold until further announcement.