Uddhav Thackeray resigns as Supreme Court refuses to stay floor test

Rebel MLAs leave Guwahati for Mumbai, via Goa

June 30, 2022 12:51 am | Updated 07:29 am IST - Mumbai/New Delhi

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray arrives at the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai to submit his resignation letter to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on June 29, 2022.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray arrives at the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai to submit his resignation letter to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on June 29, 2022. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Embattled Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation from the post on Wednesday, moments after the Supreme Court refused to stay Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s direction to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to take a floor test in the Assembly on Thursday.

"I am not the one who will stick to power. From today [Wednesday] morning, my workers are being sent notices by police. Central forces are here. Army might be called. Those who should have been at China borders will be here. I don't want to see blood of my workers spilling on the roads of Mumbai. Today, I resign from the post of Chief Minister," Mr. Thackeray said in a virtual address to the public

Mr. Thackeray said he was also quitting as a Member of the Legislative Council and added that he would only concentrate on party work. "I never said I will return. I never wanted to be here at this place, but I came. From now on, I will be fully with you," he told Shiv Sena workers.

Late in the evening, Mr. Thackeray submitted his resignation to Mr. Koshyari at the Raj Bhavan in Mumbai. The Governor accepted the resignation of Mr. Thackeray and asked him to officiate as the Chief Minister until alternate arrangements are made.

Setback in Supreme Court

Earlier, in a setback to the Uddhav Thackeray faction, the Supreme Court refused to stay the floor test called for by Mr. Koshyari on June 30 to test the Maha Vikas Aghadi government's claim of majority in the House.

"We are not staying the floor test," a Vacation Bench of Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala briefly informed the warring Shiv Sena factions after taking half-an-hour recess to deliberate in their chambers following a marathon hearing which spanned four hours, starting at 5 p.m.

The court, however, said it would hear on merit the writ petition filed by Thackeray loyalist Sunil Prabhu, challenging the process leading to the call for floor test, on July 11 along with petitions filed by Sena dissidents led by Eknath Shinde, who has questioned the disqualification proceedings initiated against them.

"Tomorrow's proceedings (floor test) will be subject to the final outcome of these petitions in court," the Bench addressed the lawyers.

The court had urgently heard the challenge to the floor test amid the frenzy of political churnings in Maharashtra. "The urgency that has been created requires us to hear the matter today itself," Justice Kant submitted.

The decision in favour of allowing the floor test came after the Governor and the dissident MLAs held that delaying the trust vote would be the "anti-thesis of democracy" and "give more time for horse-trading in Maharashtra".

The Thackeray camp argued that the trust vote cannot be held when the disqualification proceedings against 16 rebel Sena MLAs, including Mr. Shinde, were pending and being examined by the Supreme Court. They said the dissidents were an "artificial majority".

Three-party experiment

With Mr. Thackeray's resignation, the unique three-party experiment of the MVA, in which the Shiv Sena tied up with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has come to an end. The BJP, which is the single-largest party in the Assembly with 106 MLAs, is likely to stake claim to form the government.

Several BJP legislators and senior leaders gathered at the residence of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai and congratulated each other over the collapse of the MVA government.

Former Minister and BJP leader Chandrashekhar Bawankule said that “the truth prevailed, finally”.

“This govt which stopped the development of the State for two and half years has gone. We will bring in new era of development,” BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar said. 

The resignation of Mr. Thackeray has however raised the question on the future of the rebel MLAs who had revolted against him under the leadership of second-in-command Mr. Shinde. 

As Leader of the Opposition Mr. Fadnavis is set to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post for the third time, he will now have to seek support from Mr. Thackeray who will continue to be the Sena chief. 

Mr. Shinde had revolted against the Sena chief with 39 MLAs and had been stationed in Guwahati since June 22. He had demanded that Mr. Thackeray should snap ties with the Congress and the NCP for the sake of Hindutva. With Mr. Thackeray resigning, Mr. Shinde will have little option but to approach him.

“Those who were promoted by Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray are trying to pull down his son from the CM post. I asked them to come and sit in front of me to discuss. They said they have numbers and if that’s the democracy for them, then I am not interested in a democracy that believes in head count,” Mr. Thackeray said in his address.

Mr. Thackeray appealed to party workers to not obstruct the MLAs coming to Mumbai. "I don't want to see your blood on streets. If any opposition is against me, I won't bother. But if a single person whom once I considered mine is against me then I am not happy," he said.

He thanked the Congress and the NCP for supporting him at a time when his own betrayed him.

"I must appreciate the concern of Governor for democracy who ordered the floor test in 24 hours. I only want to remind him that appointment of 12 MLCs is pending for over one and half years," he said.

Earlier, Mr. Thackeray attended a Cabinet meeting at the Mantralaya on Wednesday evening where he thanked his administration for the cooperation in the past two and half years. “Despite being of different ideologies, you supported me throughout but I was backstabbed by my own partymen,” Mr. Thackeray said in the meeting, addressing his Cabinet colleagues, according to NCP state president Jayant Patil.

Governor’s order

Mr. Koshyari on Wednesday morning directed Mr. Thackeray to prove the government’s majority on June 30.

Directing the Secretary of the Legislative Assembly to convene a special one-day session by exercising his power under Article 174 and 175(2), Mr. Koshyari, in his letter, stated that “floor test for proving the majority of the Chief Minister is imperative to ensure that the government continues to function with the confidence of the house”.

The letter from Mr. Koshyari stated that apart from news reports in print and electronic media regarding 39 MLAs withdrawing support from the MVA government, an email dated June 28 from seven Independent MLAs had also been received by the Raj Bhavan which stated that the Chief Minister had lost the confidence of the majority on the floor of the house.

He also mentioned that the Leader of Opposition visited him on the same date and briefed him about the present political situation in the State submitting a letter stating that the Chief Minister had lost the majority and requesting for a floor test at the earliest to avoid any political bargaining by undemocratic means.

While it also mentioned about possible violence and threats to rebel MLAs, Mr. Koshyari’s letter directed that adequate security be provided outside and inside the Assembly to maintain “the sanctity of the voting process and also to preempt any law and order situation which may arise”.

As per the directions, the special session will have only one agenda of a trust vote against the Chief Minister and the proceedings should be concluded in any case by 5 p.m. on the same day and it shall not be adjourned for any reason whatsoever. All the proceedings will be live telecast and voting will be conducted by asking the members to rise in their seats.

The Shiv Sena, which is faced with a rebellion against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray by party’s second-in-command Eknath Shinde and 38 other MLAs, approached the Supreme Court demanding stay on the Governor’s order of convening a session at a time when proceeding of disqualification against 16 rebel MLAs was pending.

Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal had issued notices to 16 MLAs against which they had approached the top court.

The court, in an urgent hearing, extended the time given to them to submit their reply till July 12.

“How can the Governor ask the government to prove its majority when disqualification proceedings are pending?” asked Sena Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant also questioning the urgency at which Mr. Koshyari issued the orders.

Meanwhile, the rebel Sena MLAs who were stationed in Guwahati since June 22 were taken to Goa on Wednesday evening and from there they are scheduled to be brought to Mumbai for floor test. Prior to leaving, all the MLAs were taken to Kamakhya temple in Guwahati to seek blessings. “We will be in Mumbai on Thursday to vote in the floor test,” Mr. Shinde said before leaving.

One of the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, Bharat Gogawale, on Wednesday night said they will hold meetings at a five-star hotel in Goa where they are staying for the night and discuss their next steps.

“It is not like we are very happy with the decision of Uddhav Thackeray stepping down as the CM. We are heading towards our hotel. Once we reach there, we will discuss the issue and decide our next steps. He (Thackeray) tried to convince us,” Mr. Gogawale said. 

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