MUMBAI: Despite Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshayri’s objection over amendments in the Speaker election procedure, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has decided to go ahead with it on Tuesday as per schedule.
Sources said Congress MLA Sangram Thopate’s name has been finalised. Maha Vikas Aghadi headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had made an amendment in the Vidhan Sabha’s business rule for the Speaker election process. From secret ballot, it was changed to voice vote. This was submitted to the Governor for his consent.
However, Koshyari said the amendment was prima facie unconstitutional. He asked Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, to examine the decision by constitutional experts.
“The amendment is against the letter and spirit of the legislature,” the Governor wrote.
Senior Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat said as per the Constitution, the Assembly of the respective state is supreme when it comes to preparing and passing laws or making amendments. “Maha Vikas Aghadi has rightly taken the decision and amended the Vidhan Bhavan business rule.”
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole said when Maha Vikas Aghadi formed, secret ballot was part of the business rule.
“But the Supreme Court of India gave the order for open ballot rather than secret ballot voting for the Speaker’s post. Therefore, we have taken the right decision. So the Governor should give his consent as soon as possible.”
Sources in Maha Vikas Aghadi said they have followed all procedures laid down for the Speaker election.
“We made the amendment and passed the law. The Governor was informed about it. We have done our duty and will go ahead with the Speaker election on Tuesday despite the objections of the Governor. His objections do not hold any significance when it comes to this particular decision. Governor or anyone can challenge our decision, we are ready to face the consequences,” said a Congress leader.
The Congress, a constituent of the MVA, has accused the opposition BJP of obstructing the Speaker's election by using the Governor's office.
The post is lying vacant since February this year.
Notably, 12 MLAs of the BJP are under suspension for a year since the monsoon session in July this year for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer in the Speaker's chamber.
A senior minister told PTI that the Governor, in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday morning, said the amendment in existing legislative rules to pave the way for holding the Speaker's election through a voice vote in the Assembly and not ballot was ''unconstitutional''.
A delegation of MVA ministers had met the Governor on Sunday with a letter of the Chief Minister seeking approval to hold the Speaker election in the ongoing legislature session itself.
The minister said a second letter sent to the Raj Bhavan on Monday evening explained that the government was within its rights to amend the existing rules related to the Speaker's election.
"We are firm on holding the election tomorrow (Tuesday),'' he said.
The development comes amid reports that Koshyari has not accepted the state government's plea for holding the speaker's election during the winter session of the state legislature.
Yesterday, the Governor had told a government delegation comprising Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal that he would seek legal opinion on the issue and get back to them.
Later, Thorat had said the governor sought details of the amendments to the legislative rules about holding the election through a voice vote instead of ballot.
Shinde also had said the change in procedure of holding the Speaker's election was done as per the rules.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut took a swipe at the Governor this morning saying "too much of study is not good in a democracy".
"What matters in a democracy is listening to the voice of the people. As per Constitution, a Governor has to abide by the recommendations of the state cabinet,'' he said.
Maharashtra Congress president and MLA Nana Patole said the proposed election of the Speaker by a voice vote is not unconstitutional.
The post of Speaker is lying vacant since February this year after Patole, who was elected to the constitutional position in end-2019, resigned to take charge as the state Congress chief.
"Election of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly will be held by a voice vote (instead of through ballot) and the government has planned to hold this election tomorrow (Dec 28) itself," Patole told reporters.
Patole was responding to a media query about a letter sent by the Governor to the state government saying holding the election through a voice vote will be unconstitutional.
The Congress MLA said the legislature has powers to amend rules related to election of Speaker and they were amended accordingly in Maharashtra.
There is a similar process in the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra has adopted the same process of electing the Speaker by a voice vote, he said.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government and Koshyari have had constant face-offs since the three-party ruling coalition assumed office in November 2019.
Koshyari had declined to nominate Thackeray (who is not an MLA) to the Legislative Council through the Governor's quota after the biennial election to the Upper house of the legislature were put off during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.
The Governor's refusal had even threatened the survival of the MVA government as Thackeray had to get elected to either house of the Legislature before May 2020.
He was not a member of the legislature when he was sworn in as chief minister in November 2019.
Koshyari has also not accepted the state cabinet's recommendations to nominate 12 members to the Legislative Council through the governor's quota.
Koshyari had also written a letter to Thackeray on the issue of delay in reopening of temples and questioned his Hindutva ideals.
The state government had denied Koshyari permission to use the official plane to visit Uttarakhand, his home state.
Meanwhile, senior Advocate Shrihari Aney, a former Advocate General of Maharashtra, told PTI that what the Governor says may not have any legal implications when it comes to elections inside the House.
"The basic position in law is that the elections are conducted in the House by the Speaker. In this the Governor has no role to play," Aney said.
If the Governor wants to give any directions or has anything to say, then it has to be in private, Aney added.
The senior advocate further said if the Speaker (the Chair) says there will be a voice vote, instead of a secret ballot, and if there is a section of MLAs which does not like this process, then they can ask the Speaker (presiding officer) for a division (of votes).
"Then the Speaker (the Chair) would have to take a decision on whether the elections would be held via voice vote or a ballot. While the Governor may not have any legal rights but what he says can be considered as what a section of MLAs want" Aney said.