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Maharashtra government formation: Governor acted as hitman for Amit Shah, says Congress

Randeep Surjewala. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Randeep Surjewala. Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

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Expressing surprise and shock with the events in Maharashtra, the Congress on Saturday alleged that Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had acted as a “hitman” on the Constitution of India at the instance of a Home Minister who considered the “Constitution as his captive instrument”.

The party questioned the sequence of events leading up to the swearing-in-ceremony, in which the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister. Congress’s communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala asked when and how had the Governor managed to verify the claim made by the NCP’s Ajit Pawar that the BJP had the support of the NCP’s legislators. “The Governor has to first satisfy himself, that there is a Government that can be constituted in accordance with the law and people claiming majority had actually the real majority,” Mr. Surjewala said.

The Governor has so far not set a date for a floor test. The Congress is pinning its hopes on NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s ability to keep his flock together to defeat the Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government. While the Congress has so far not publicly questioned Sharad Pawar’s role in the coup, the party opted to skip sharing the stage with the NCP supremo and the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray when the two leaders addressed a press conference in Mumbai.

Mr. Surjewala asserted that the Pawar-Thackeray press conference had coincided with a meeting of the Congress legislature party, which is why party leaders Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and K.C. Venugopal were unable to attend it. They had addressed a separate press conference. “Mr. Sharad Pawar has made his stand very clear. After his statement, there is no scope for doubt or speculation on his role,” Mr. Surjewala said.

The party trained its guns on the BJP and the role of the Governor. As per the anti-defection law, two-third or more legislators of a party have to walk away. The NCP won 54 seats, so for a formal split 36 legislators have to break away. “Thirty six legislators never gave a representation in writing. The Governor never verified the signatures of each legislator, either by way of an affidavit, or by way of personal attendance of each legislator before him, then how could the Governor presume that Mr. Devendra Fadnavis has the majority?” Mr Surjewala questioned. The NCP had not suffered a split under the Tenth Schedule, called the anti-defection law in popular parlance, he asserted.

“The Governor of Maharashtra instead of protecting his constitutional duties has acted as a hitman for the Home Minister Mr. Shah. To sell the mandate given by the people of India... has now become a norm for the BJP,” Mr. Surjewala asserted, referring to similar political events from Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Goa, Uttaranchal, Haryana and Manipur.

He added that the BJP had pressurised Ajit Pawar to constitute an “illegitimate” government in Maharashtra. “Prior to the elections, Mr. Fadnavis and the BJP promised to send Mr. Pawar to Arthur Road jail in ₹72,000 crore irrigation scam, but, post the elections, they have sent him to secretariat as Deputy Chief Minister. This is only possible in Modi regime that is why they say ‘Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai’,” he added.

Congress officials, in private, termed the developments in Maharashtra as a significant ‘missed opportunity’. “Had we managed to form the government, it would have been the first step towards disintegration of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance,” said a Congress leader, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Allying with Shiv Sena would have also opened hitherto unknown doors,” the leader added.

Many in the party have blamed the prolonged negotiations as the reason for missing the bus. Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi in a tweet said that his personal view was that the tripartite negotiations should not have gone on for more than three days. Mr. Surjewala rejected the contention, saying that the party, despite initial reservations, had acted expediently. “Whenever Mr. Pawar held a meeting, Congress representatives went to his house for two days in a row both in Delhi, as also in Mumbai,” he said. “So, I think, there was expeditious action on part of the Congress and we had decided to constitute the alliance in the larger interest and on the demand of people and leaders of Maharashtra, despite some initial reservations on day one,” Mr. Surjewala added, making clear that the party’s allies and not the Congress were responsible for any delay in finalising the power-sharing arrangement.

A section of the party is, however, quietly glad that the Congress was saved from having to be part of a Shiv Sena government. Mr. Surjewala said that all the initial reservations were put to rest once party President Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Thackeray had spoken with each other.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Digvijay Singh suggested that the three alliance partners, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress take to the streets. “Let’s see with whom are the people of Mumbai and Maharashtra? For the three parties, it is a question of survival,” he said in a tweet. Putting the onus on Shiv Sena, he added that it is a question of prestige especially for Uddhav and the Thackeray family.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 4:52:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/maharashtra-government-formation-governor-acted-as-hitman-for-amit-shah-says-congress/article30063556.ece

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