The BJP-led Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly has claimed that the Deputy Chief Minister’s post held by NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who recently returned to the Cabinet following his sudden resignation three months ago, was not provided for under the Constitution.
BJP member and Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse, who raised the issue in the House said, Ajit should not hence be officiating as a Cabinet Minister in the Assembly’s winter session which got under way on Monday.
Khadse said Ajit had earlier held other portfolios besides being the Deputy Chief Minister and hence there was no problem.
However, when he was sworn in by Governor K Sankaranarayanan last week he was not given the charge of any ministry and assumed office merely as Deputy CM.
“There is no provision in the Constitution for the post of Dy CM. Therefore, Ajith’s oath as the Dy CM itself was unconstitutional and he should not be introduced in the House as Dy CM,” he said.
He recalled that Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil along with Home Minister R R Patil had in 1995 objected to Gopinath Munde’s appointment as Deputy CM in the BJP-Shiv Sena Government. “Subsequently, the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court had ruled that Deputy CM’s post had no constitutional validity,” said Khadse.
Meanwhile, the BJP leader was backed by Shiv Sena’s Subhash Desai and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Bala Nandgaokar.
However, NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said that the Governor’s decision cannot be termed unconstitutional.
“Those members who are raising objections should keep in mind that the oath administered by the Governor cannot be termed unconstitutional,” he said.
Fellow NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who had also served as Deputy CM, pointed out that there were Deputy CMs in other states including those ruled by the BJP.
Speaker Walse-Patil, meanwhile, has reserved the order on the objection raised by Khadse.
Congress and NCP sources,though,claimed that the NCP had deliberately refused to allocate portfolios to Ajit to shield him from the Opposition. However, the move has apparently backfired and the party has been finding it increasingly difficult to counter the Opposition onslaught.