Maharashtra: Questions about the midnight Fadnavis govt that need urgent answers

It would be unwise not to conduct a formal post-mortem of what happened in Mumbai’s Raj Bhavan and Delhi’s power corridors in the wee hours of Saturday, November 23

Maharashtra: Questions about the midnight Fadnavis govt that need urgent answers

Mala Jay

Amidst the blowing of conch shells to greet the birth of the new Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra, it would be a disservice to Democracy if the sordid circumstances in which an illicit BJP regime was installed are allowed to be forgotten.

Sins against the Constitution were prima facie committed that cannot and should not be brushed under the carpet. It would be unwise not to conduct a formal post-mortem of what happened in Mumbai’s Raj Bhavan and Delhi’s power corridors in the wee hours of Saturday, November 23.

Joyful celebrations are entirely justified for the members and supporters of the brand-new three-party alliance that has wrested power in the face of great odds with a remarkable display of dexterity, resilience and mutual cooperation.  That Uddhav Thackeray has been chosen as the Chief Minister smoothly and without a murmur of dissent or discord, is certainly an auspicious beginning to what could be an exciting political experiment.

However, much more is at stake than Maharashtra’s future alone; the role played by constitutional functionaries at the Centre and the State warrants closer examination.  These are times when it is not enough to simply chant ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and then move on to focus on the tasks and challenges that lie ahead, without taking a hard look at what took place along the twisted path to victory.

The Congress party has already signalled its intention to seek a probe by the apex court into the circumstances of the sudden revocation of President’s Rule at an ungodly hour and the hurried swearing-in ceremony of a Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister by the Governor in an inexplicably clandestine manner.

Adding a disturbing dimension to the entire sequence of events was the active involvement of the Prime Minister as well as the President and that is what needs to be reviewed in an impartial manner if only to restore faith in the process of governance.

In his press briefing on Tuesday, the momentous day of the Supreme Court ruling that triggered the collapse of this Devendra Fadnavis regime that lasted for 80 hours, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari flagged the key issues of concern.  He spelt out a list of worrisome questions that deserve to be probed and answered.

At what precise time on the night of Friday-Saturday was Governor Koshiari informed that Ajit Pawar of the NCP had offered to support a BJP government under Devendra Fadnavis?  When exactly was the purported document containing the signatures of 54 NCP MLAs submitted to the Governor? When did he intimate Home Minister Amit Shah?

When was the Prime Minister alerted and what steps did he take?  What was the justification for invoking Rule 12A, meant only for an exceptional situation, and why was a Cabinet meeting not convened?  At what time of the night was President Kovind aroused from his slumber and did he apply his mind adequately and after customary consultations with his advisors before signing the proclamation to revoke central rule in Maharashtra?

At what pre-dawn hour was the Governor given instructions to install a new government and by whom?  What was the urgency to administer the oath so early on Saturday morning without the usual fanfare and without the Press fraternity being informed?

Why indeed was it at all considered necessary to rush through the process at such speed?  Especially when Fadnavis, the Governor and the other seasoned politicians higher up the chain ought to have confirmed that Ajit Pawar’s list of signatures was not based on deception. Do all these bursts of post-midnight, pre-dawn activity and alacrity amount to machinations and manipulations?

These are legitimate questions for a party spokesman like Tewari to voice, especially in the context of the prevailing partisan politics in the country when similar instances of fast-tracked government formations in Goa, Arunachal, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Karnataka are still fresh in the public memory.

As things finally turned out,  it was all for nothing as far as Maharashtra is concerned.  The Fadnavis-Ajit regime was still-born.  In Manish Tewari’s evocative words: ‘Evil is time-stamped’.

But merely because the perceived ‘forces of evil’ have been defeated this time by the so-called forces of good, it does not mean that a deep inquiry should not be held.  For Truth to truly triumph, the untruth has to be meticulously exposed and laid bare before the public.

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