On the eve of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing on Maharashtra government formation, the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress on Monday paraded their legislators, an estimated 162, in front of the media at a five-star hotel in Mumbai to back their claim that the alliance commanded the majority in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.
In the morning, the SC heard the petition of the three parties demanding that it order floor test of the Devendra Fadnavis government on Monday itself. The three-judge Bench said it would pass an order at 10.30 am on Tuesday.
On an eventful day, much of the Opposition protested inside both Houses of Parliament the “murder of democracy” in Maharashtra, with the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha failing to transact any significant business and adjourning for the day at 2pm.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi set the tone for the protests when he refused to ask a supplementary question during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha at 11 am, saying there was no point in doing so as "democracy has been murdered in Maharashtra". Congress President Sonia Gandhi led the protests in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Parliament premises.
The Congress alleged that two of their women parliamentarians, Jothimani and Ramya Haridass, were “manhandled” by marshals in the Lok Sabha when they were protesting in the Well of the House. The two have lodged a complaint with Speaker Om Birla. The Speaker named Congress members Hibi Eden and TN Prathapam when they entered the Well of the House carrying a black banner that read 'Stop murder of democracy'. The Speaker said such behaviour is “unacceptable” and will not be “tolerated”.
After his warnings went unheeded, the speaker ordered marshals to remove the two lawmakers. Sources in the Lok Sabha secretariat said both members stand suspended as the Speaker has named them during proceedings of the House.
The Congress, and “like-minded parties”, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Left parties and others were also mulling boycotting Tuesday’s joint sitting of Parliament to mark the 70th anniversary of the Constitution Day as a mark of protest. However, consensus eluded the leaders of these parties on the issue till the filing of this report. Some of the opposition parties, like the Trinamool Congress, are likely to attend the function, but join protests by the rest of the opposition, to be held in front of the statue of B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, on the Parliament premises.
During the Supreme Court proceedings, it also came to light that Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had granted Fadnavis government 14 days on November 23 to prove its majority, and not, as earlier believed, until November 30.
After perusing Koshyari's letter inviting Fadnavis, the Bench said it has to be decided whether the chief minister enjoyed majority on the floor of the House. Ajit Pawar’s counsel said his client represented the real NCP and that he would resolve disputes within his party, but the petition must end.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal asked, "Where was a national emergency to revoke the President's rule at 5.27 am and the CM being administered oath at 8 am the next morning?” “The combine has the affidavits of 154 MLAs supporting it. If the BJP has the numbers, it should be asked to prove majority within 24 hours," he said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the NCP and the Congress, said: “It was a fraud of the worst kind” and asked whether a single NCP MLA told Ajit Pawar of pledging support to him. Appearing for the BJP, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar had letters of support of 170 MLAs. "It is nobody's case that the documents submitted by Fadnavis to the Governor are forged," he said.
Talking to reporters in Karad, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said he was not behind Ajit Pawar's decision to align with the BJP. He said his party along with Congress and Shiv Sena would form the next government in Maharashtra. “The BJP used to say it is different from others. After this episode, their difference has been exposed," he said. Three NCP MLAs, ‘missing’ since Saturday after attending the swearing-in of Ajit Pawar, returned to Mumbai on Monday.