MUMBAI: A phone call by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the delay in the Governor's decision on his election to the Upper House appears to have paid dividends.
Thackeray will now continue as Chief Minister by being elected as a member of the state legislative council rather than through the governor's quota.
To expedite this, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Thursday wrote to the Election Commission requesting it to declare elections to the nine vacant seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council ‘at the earliest’.
In his letter, the Governor said the Centre has announced many relaxations in the enforcement of the lockdown in the country. Hence the elections to the council seats can be held with certain guidelines.
He further stated that since Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is not a member of either house of the state legislature, he needs to get elected to the Council before May 27, 2020.
The Election Commission had withheld the election process for these nine seats following the COVID-19 crisis.
The Governor made the request to the Election Commission to fill the nine seats in the legislative council that have been lying vacant since April 24 with a view to end the current uncertainty in the state.
Earlier, the Maharashtra cabinet had decided to seek the appointment of Uddhav Thackeray as a member of the Upper House from the governor’s quota. But the governor did not reject or approve this proposal on the grounds that the duration of these seats would expire on June 10, 2020. Therefore, the governor was reluctant to appoint Thackeray as a member of the Upper House.
The Maharashtra cabinet had also written to the Governor and the election commission to conduct the elections to nine seats of the state legislative council so that Thackeray can continue as Chief Minister.
A highly placed source in the Shiv Sena said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s recent phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid off. “Thackeray had expressed his displeasure over the delay in the Governor's decision at a time of crisis. He requested Modi to look into this issue and clarified that this is not the time for politics. He said power can come and go and that we extended all support during the COVID-19 crisis and expect the same. After that, things moved faster with the Governor,” said the source.
Uddhav has to be a member of either house by May 28, 2020. So, the state legislative council’s elections to the nine seats can be conducted in a minimum of 14 days or a maximum of 24 days after the filing of nominations and withdrawals. “These elections are likely to happen unopposed like the Rajya Sabha elections to seven seats in Maharashtra. So they can be wound up in 14 days also,” said a senior Congress leader.