BJP’s Maha innings starts on dark note

Speaker Bagde to allow a formal division to ascertain the votes of various parties
Although the BJP did not win a majority in the recent Maharashtra Assembly election, the party’s performance was rated positively as the state got its first chief minister from the saffron ranks, and the party earned political miles nationally for its first-rate showing. All the goodwill that was garnered seemed to evaporate on Wednesday, however, when Speaker Haribhau Bagde, who had just been elected unanimously as other parties withdrew their candidates, appeared to display partisanship in conducting the confidence vote to test whether the Devendra Fadnavis government enjoyed a majority on the floor of the state Assembly.
The Speaker was content to go by a voice vote in declaring that the minority BJP government had cleared the test, and paid no heed to demands for division from Opposition members on the floor of the House. This is unprecedented.As per established parliamentary practice and conventions, even if there is one voice demanding division, the Speaker is duty-bound and rule-bound to discard the perceived result of a voice vote and go through the detailed process of tallying the vote of each member of the House. Mr Bagde thus threw the rule to the wind. As such, he leaves his action open to judicial scrutiny.
There can be no question that the Fadnavis government has got off to an inauspicious start. In recent memory, another BJP Speaker, Kesri Nath Tripathi in Uttar Pradesh, had also appeared to ride roughshod over the Opposition as he seemed to twist the rule book to disqualify members who were not convenient to the ruling dispensation, but it had not fallen to his lot to push through a confidence motion through voice vote.
It was incumbent on Speaker Bagde to allow a formal division to ascertain the votes of various parties and groups when the confidence motion was being conducted, especially since a minority government had set out to take charge; indeed, in these circumstances it was a moral burden. The Speaker’s autonomy in conducting the business of the House is untrammelled only to the extent that rules, procedures, and conventions are not sought to be wilfully breached, as seemed to have happened in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday.
Governor Vidyasagar Rao now has a think coming. He had permitted the CM-designate a time period in which to demonstrate his majority on the floor of the Assembly, as per recognised procedures. This appears not to have happened. A dark cloud appears to hang over the Speaker’s conduct while taking the trust vote. The sooner Mr Rao takes legal advice the better. It is hard to see how the Maharashtra legislature can expect to conduct its business in a normal way until matters are straightened out.
( Source : dc )
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