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Constitutional crisis looms large in Maharashtra: Can Uddhav Thackeray hold on to CM’s seat?

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Mumbai, Apr 23: Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, who is battling a major pandemic in the state of Maharashtra is also now staring at a constitutional crisis.

Thackeray will have to get elected, either as an MLA or MLC before 24. He took oath as the Chief Minister on November 28. While the Election Commission has already postponed the Rajya Sabha polls, civic body elections and by-polls, Article 164 (4) of the Constitution says that Thackeray would have to be elected to either of the state legislature houses before May 24.

Constitutional crisis looms large in Maharashtra: Can Udhav Thackeray hold on to CM’s seat?

The Maharashtra Cabinet recently had passed a resolution urging the Governor to nominate Thackeray to the Legislative Council, which has two vacancies. However, Section 151A of the Representation of People Act, 1951 says that election or nomination to the post cannot be done if the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year. In the case of Maharashtra, the terms of the two vacancies in the council end on June 6.

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The two posts in question fell vacant after NCP leaders, Rama Wadkute and Rahul Narvekar resigned. They had joined the BJP in October 2019 ahead of the assembly polls in the state. Out of the 78 council members, the Governor nominates 12 of them and their six-year term this time ends on June 6.

Moreover, these nominations are reserved for persons having special knowledge or practical experience in matters such as cooperative movement, social service, literature, science or art. However even if the Governor decided to make a political appointment in this category, there is no provision for the courts to interfere with the same.

It may be recalled that in 2001, Jayalalithaa had resigned as the Tamil Nadu chief minister despite winning a massive mandate. She resigned due to legal troubles. Since she had been convicted in a corruption case, she was not allowed to contest the elections. She was, however, elected as the party leader and became the CM. Before her six-month window was about to expire, the Supreme Court held that her appointment was unconstitutional. She appointed O Paneerselvam as the CM for five months. She, however, contested the elections and won after the Madras High Court acquitted her of all charges in 2002.

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