Maharashtra crisis: Why Pro-Tem Speaker holds key to whether Devendra Fadnavis stays or goes

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

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Maharashtra political drama: As per current reports, six names have emerged as frontrunners for the post of Pro-Tem Speaker. KC Padvi, Kalidas Kolambkar, Dilip Valse Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Balasaheb Thorat and Babanrao Pachpute are the names doing the rounds.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to conduct the floor test in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on November 27 to ascertain whether CM Devendra Fadnavis government enjoys majority in the 288-member House. The floor test will be conducted after 5 PM, by which time the Pro-Tem Speaker will have to administer the oath to all the newly elected 288 MLAs of the House, the order by the three-judge Supreme Court bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna, NV Ramana and Ashok Bhushan said. This will be the first time when a pro-tem Speaker will supervise the floor test. In Karnataka also, the Supreme Court had ordered to conduct the floor test by the pro-tem Speaker. However, then BJP’s CM BS Yediyurappa had resigned minutes before moving the trust motion.

There is no written rule on who will be appointed as the pro-tem Speaker. However, there has been a tradition to appoint the senior-most member of the House as the pro-tem Speaker. The appointment is done by the Governor. The pro-tem Speaker will be administered oath by the Governor and his office is ceased after he administers the oath to the newly elected lawmakers and conducts the election of a permanent Speaker. The Speaker then conducts the floor test. However, in the case of Maharashtra, the top court has ordered that the pro-tem Speaker will conduct floor test.

So who will be appointed as the pro-tem Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly? As per the set tradition, the senior-most member should be appointed as the pro-tem Speaker. In the current Assembly, Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat is the frontrunner. He is an MLA for eight terms. At present, Thorat is a lawmaker from Sangamner and also the Congress’ Maharashtra unit chief.

The second in the race is BJP’s Kalidas Kolambkar, another lawmaker for eight terms. A former Congress leader, he won from the Wadala Assembly seat in the elections held last month. He is considered a close confidante of senior BJP leader Narayan Rane.

After a bitter fight for numbers for the last three days, the fight will now shift for the pro-tem Speaker’s post in Maharashtra. Both the BJP and opposition camp of ShivSena-NCP-Congress will try to see their man on the post.

The pro-tem Speaker’s role is crucial in Maharashtra in the current scenario. The pro-tem Speaker enjoys all the powers that a permanent Speaker enjoys as per the Constitution. Significantly, the pro-tem Speaker will be the one who will recognise the legislature party leader and who has the authority to issue a whip to his party MLAs. At present, the NCP is divided into two camps — one led by Sharad Pawar and second one led by his nephew Ajit Pawar. Sharad Pawar is not a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Technically, he can’t issue a whip for the party MLAs in the Assembly.

Ajit Pawar is an MLA from Baramati seat in Pune district and he holds the power to issue whip to his party MLAs in the House. However, the NCP last week replaced him with Jayant Patil. The Governor still has the paper which recognises Ajit as the NCP’s legislature party leader and extending support to BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis.

Although Sanjay Patil on Tuesday morning submitted a letter with the Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha to apprise that Ajit Pawar is no longer the NCP’s legislature wing leader, it is the pro-tem Speaker who will decide whether Ajit has the power to issue a whip.

Notably, the development comes a day after NCP chief Sharad Pawar told his MLAs not to follow Ajit Pawar’s whip and he will personally ensure that none of them loses membership for voting against the BJP during the floor test.

In the current Assembly which has 288 chairs, the BJP has 105 MLAs. The Shiv Sena is the second largest party with 56 MLAs. The NCP and Congress have 54 and 44 MLAs, respectively. The BJP claims that it enjoys the support of NCP as its legislature party leader Ajit Pawar has submitted the letter of support to Governor.

As per current reports, six names have emerged as frontrunners for the post of Pro-Tem Speaker. KC Padvi, Kalidas Kolambkar, Dilip Valse Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Balasaheb Thorat and Babanrao Pachpute are the names doing the rounds.

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