Mumbai: Maharashtra was placed under President’s Rule on Tuesday, 19 days after election results and subsequent inter-party negotiations had failed to throw up a simple majority for any of the main stakeholders.
The last three weeks have seen unprecedented haggling between allies BJP and Shiv Sena over the chief minister’s chair, followed by political expediency in which ideologically-mismatched parties — the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress — explored all permutations and combinations to form a government.
At the end of the day, this block said they now have six months to decide on a Common Minimum Programme for a future alliance in the state against the BJP.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari recommended President’s Rule in the state as Opposition parties launched a futile scramble to get the necessary numbers to form the government. Koshiyari, who had given Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party till 8.30 pm to take a shot at the government, took the decision after the party nagged him for more time.
The Raj Bhawan tweeted in the afternoon: “Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshyari having been satisfied that as Govt of Maharashtra cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution, has today submitted a report as contemplated by the provisions of Article 356 of Constitution (President's Rule).”
Soon after, the Union Cabinet advised President’s Rule in Maharashtra as the BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress failed to cobble together the numbers required for government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened the Cabinet meeting in the afternoon to discuss the stalemate in the state after the BJP opted out of the race, having bitterly fought with ally Shiv Sena over the chief minister’s chair.
Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiary had given Shiv Sena time till 7.30 pm on Monday evening to express its willingness to form the government and establish the numbers. Having waited the whole day for the Congress and NCP to jointly support a Sena government in the Assembly, young leader Aditya Thackeray could only prove his ‘willingness’ before the Governor but could not establish the numbers.
It is learnt while Maharashtra Congress leaders were in favour of an alliance, party chief Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul were against supporting a party so ideologically different from them.
The NCP had also asked the Congress highcommand not to rush into anything because it wanted to negotiate a better deal for itself with the Sena, including the chief minister's chair for half the term. Sharad Pawar reportedly told Sonia Gandhi that his party had only two less MLAs than the Sena and that the Opposition block deserved more.
After turning down the Shiv Sena's plea for three more days to prove majority, the Governor invited NCP to form the government instead. The NCP had time till 8.30 pm on Tuesday, but the Governor pulled the brakes after it was evident that they would not get the numbers .
President's Rule has been imposed for six months in the state, and will need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament in the Winter Session that begins on November 18.
President's Rule can be revoked if the contenders for the CM's office approach the Governor with proof of majority.
The BJP has 105 MLAs, the Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and the Congress 44. The results of the Maharashtra Assembly elections were declared on October 24.
After Monday’s action in New Delhi, Tuesday saw top Congress leaders like Ahmed Patel flying down to Mumbai after chief Sonia Gandhi spoke with Sharad Pawar. The two pre-poll allies were in further talks on whether supporting the Shiv Sena was feasible and how it would go down with their support base.
NCP’s Nawab Malik said the government could not be formed without the Congress and discussions with ‘all three parties’ were on. He said the NCP had authorised a Sharad Pawar-led committee to give Maharashtra a stable government.
Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, K C Venugopal were part of the discussions.
At a joint press conference by the Congress and NCP in the evening, NCP leader Praful Patel said the Shiv Sena reached out to their block on Monday for the first time.
Patel said, “We need to discuss threadbare all issues and jointly decide the future course of action.”
Congress leader Ahmed Patel said party chief Sonia Gandhi wanted clarity on a few things in this possible three-party alliance. He also said that the BJP was making a mockery of democracy and the Constitution by not following the guidelines of government formation.
Patel also slammed the Governor for not calling the Congress to form the government despite inviting the Shiv Sena and the NCP.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray met the media soon after and said the Governor had now given them 'six months' to provide a stable government — a clear indicator that he accepted there would be no government in a hurry.
He said: “We are parties with different ideologies. They needed clarity on a few issues. So did we. We need to find a common minimum programme for the future ahead.” “If the BJP and PDP can come together, so can we,” he added.
Slamming his pre-poll alliance partner, he said: “The BJP practises fake Hindutva. Hindutva is also about keeping promises. The sharing of the chief minister’s chair was pivotal to our alliance.”
Thackeray said he had called Sonia Gandhi and hoped for a ‘new beginning’ with this possible alliance.