NEW DELHI/MUMBAI :
■ Thackeray can’t be restored as CM as he resigned without facing floor test: SC
■Speaker’s decision to appoint Bharat Gogawale of Shinde faction as whip of Shiv Sena party was illegal: SC
EKNATH Shinde will continue to be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra after the Supreme Court held on Thursday it cannot reinstate the MVA coalition Government headed by Uddhav Thackeray since the Shiv Sena leader chose to resign without facing the floor test in the wake of a rebellion in his party. The unanimous verdict by a fivejudge Constitution bench came as a relief for Shinde even as it censured former Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari over his decision calling upon Thackeray to prove his majority in the Assembly based on a request by the Shinde faction T HE Supreme Court verdict in the matter pertaining to Maharashtra political happenings of the recent past lays down certain things clearly but has left scope for further interpretation. As such, there are certain issues that remain. Those issues will continue to be part of the political and legal discourse for more time to come. The Supreme Court has observed clearly that the then Maharashtra Governor Mr. Bhagat Singh Koshyari was not justified in calling upon the then Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Mr. Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority on the floor of the House ‘because he did not have reasons based on objective material before him’ to conclude that Mr.Thackeray had lost the confidence of the House.
Thackeray camp is celebrating this as their moral victory. However, at the same time, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the‘status quo ante’ (Mr. Thackeray being reinstated as Chief Minister) cannot be restored because Mr. Thackeray did not face the floor test and tendered his resignation. The camp led by Chief Minister and Shiv Sena rebel Mr. Eknath Shinde is celebrating this. There is more for Shinde camp to celebrate as the apex court has stated that the then Governor was‘justified’ in inviting Mr. Shinde to form the Government on the basis of letter of support of 106 BJP legislators and Independents and Shinde camp legislators. So, the Supreme Court verdict has left Thackeray as well as Shinde camp both somewhat happy and somewhat unhappy. Interestingly, the Supreme Court has also observed that it cannot ordinarily adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the Tenth Schedule in the first instance.While observing so, it has left it to the Speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to decide disqualification petitions of legislators within a reasonable period. Thus, it will take some more time for the remainder of political drama to unfold. There are certain areas that will require more time and churning of legal brains to decipher and give legal firmament to. For instance, the Supreme Court has stated that the political party and ‘not the legislature party’ appoints the Whip and the Leader of the party in the House.
Now, it is open to interpretation whether directions in the letters issued by the then Shiv Sena Whip Mr. Sunil Prabhu would be considered while deciding disqualification of legislators of Shinde camp. To add to complications of interpretation, the apex court has asked the Speaker to ‘prima facie determine who the political party is’ for the purpose of adjudicating disqualification petitions. Thus, whichever action is taken by the Speaker is likely to attract lot of political criticism as well as support from different sides. Add to these the issues of political morality with specific reference to Mr. Thackeray breaking away from pre-poll alliance with BJP after elections, and the Constitutional Morality that requires interpretation of even the discussed parameters of jurisprudence. All these put together indicate only one thing as of now -- the political battle is not over.While the Thackeray camp will leave no stone unturned to capitalise on the Supreme Court observations regarding the then Governor’s actions, the Shinde camp will obviously keep invoking political morality issues and weakness of Mr. Thackeray as reflected in his resignation before facing the floor test. Of course, one remembers that the Supreme Court had refused to stay the floor test then. In this scenario, the next few months will surely see some hot political activity. Thackeray and Shinde camps will be in focus. Which side is successful in convincing the electorate about correctness of its stand, will determine the pitch for the upcoming Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections. Till then, the issues remain.