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New Delhi: Uddhav Thackeray stepped down as the chief minister of Maharashtra within minutes after the Supreme Court Wednesday had refused to intervene with regard to the governor’s order to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that it take the floor test to prove its majority on Thursday, June 30.
Thackeray also announced his resignation from his membership in the state legislative council.
As soon as the apex court issued its order, Thackeray appeared on Facebook live to announce his decision. He thanked Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Sonia Gandhi of the Congress for the support lent to the MVA government. NCP, Congress, and Shiv Sena were constituents of the tripartite MVA government.
Thackeray, while announcing his resignation, listed the work his government had done over the past two and half years. “I ensured that the farmers in Maharashtra were made debt-free… Today at the cabinet meeting, we were able to realise Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s dream of naming Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad as Dharashiv.”
“I am especially thankful for the position taken by both the NCP and Congress who supported me in today’s decision. Both parties have been accused of not supporting the cause (of changing names). But by supporting today, they put the allegations to rest,” he said, referring to the change of names.
On rebel MLAs, the outgoing chief minister said, “Those accused of ditching the MVA government stayed with me. But my own people have let the government down.”
However, he still went on to offer an olive branch to the rebel MLAs. “I have since the beginning requested that you come and talk to me. Tell me what your issues are. I still maintain that I am willing to talk and see if a resolution can be reached.”
Meanwhile, the rebel camp led by Shinde moved to Goa from Guwahati in a chartered flight around 7 pm on Wednesday. Around 70 rooms were kept ready for the MLAs in a five-star hotel in the coastal state. The sea-facing hotel located in the posh Dona Paula area near Panaji is a short distance from the Goa Raj Bhavan.
Earlier, the court had refused to intervene in the matter and turned down the plea of Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu challenging the Maharashtra governor’s direction to Thackeray to face a trust vote.
In his petition, Prabhu had argued that conducting a floor test at a “supersonic speed amounted to putting the cart before the horse”.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Prabhu, told a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala that two MLAs of the NCP were down with COVID-19 while two MLAs of the Congress were abroad and they were asked to participate in the floor test on Thursday.
Singhvi argued that allowing floor tests would mean making Tenth Schedule a “dead letter”.
The bench observed that the Tenth schedule is one of the robust provisions and the court should strengthen it.
Earlier in the day, the bench had taken note of submissions of Singhvi that an urgent hearing was needed in view of the decision taken by governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asking the MVA government to prove the majority at 11 am on Thursday.
The petition had contended that the governor vide communication dated June 28, 2022 (which was received today i.e., on June 29 at about 9:00 am) had decided to hold a floor test in complete defiance of the fact that this court is seized of the issue of the disqualification proceedings.
“Such undue haste is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14,” said the plea and sought directions seeking setting aside of the impugned communication sent by the governor to the Chief Minister as well as to the secretary of the Assembly.
Koshyari had asked the Maharashtra legislature secretary to hold a floor test of the MVA government at 11 am on Thursday.
The governor’s letter comes amid the rebellion in the ruling Shiv Sena by senior minister Eknath Shinde, who has been camping in Guwahati since last week with the majority of party legislators and several independent MLAs, which has pushed the government led by Thackeray, who is also the Sena president, into a crisis.
While announcing his resignation, Thackeray made an emotional appeal to his supporters. “Sena has taken care of its people. We made small-time workers big. From rickshaw drivers to handcart pullers, Sena took care of everyone. Sena showed them the right path. But once they became big, they forgot those people who really helped them thrive.”
Thackeray also made a sarcastic comment and said that those rebelling can boast that they were “successful in dislodging the son of the man (Bal Thackeray) who made them big”. “Let them carry this legacy everywhere they travel,” he added.
Recounting the ‘successes’ of his government, Thackeray said, “Several states have witnessed riots over the past two and half years but Maharashtra continued to remain peaceful even when the anti-CAA, NRC protests were witnessed in the state. I would like to thank my people for this.”
“Since I have moved to Matoshree (Thackeray’s residence), I have had many common men and women come to meet me. These people were at my door to just express their support.”
Speaking of his chief ministership, he said, “I was an unexpected candidate for CM’s post. I was handed over the post unexpectedly and now I am making an unexpected exit too. I am resigning from the post of MLC too.”
He also appealed to his supporters to not cause any obstruction to the rebelling MLAs who are expected to come for the floor test tomorrow.
Arguments of the rebel camp
Shiv Sena rebel MLA Eknath Shinde on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction is in a hopeless minority within the party and a floor test in the Assembly is the best way to stop horse-trading.
Shinde’s counsel told a vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala that any delay in the floor test would cause more damage to the democratic polity.
Senior advocate N.K. Kaul, appearing for Shinde, argued that the pendency of disqualification proceedings before the speaker is no ground to delay the floor test.
“Dance of democracy takes place on the floor of the House and that is what is being sought to be done,” Kaul told the bench.
“They (Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena) are in a hopeless minority within the party itself, forget the House,” Kaul argued, adding that the unfolding situation requires a floor test, and the governor, in his discretion, has decided that it be conducted.
During the arguments, the bench observed that the floor of the House is the only way to settle these issues of democracy.
The bench also asked senior advocate Singhvi, appearing for Prabhu, how can floor test impacts the disqualification process or interfere with the powers of the speaker to conduct disqualification proceedings.
“Our understanding is that floor of the house is the only way to settle these issues of democracy,” the bench observed.
Singhvi told the apex court that people who had changed sides do not reflect the will of the people and heavens won’t fall if the floor test is not held tomorrow.
He argued that the court must not allow a floor test to be held till the deputy speaker decided on the disqualification petition against some rebel MLAs.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as soon as new information trickles in.