Mumbai, Nov 12:
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ 13-day old government won the trust vote in the Maharashtra assembly, but the two main opposition parties, the Shiv Sena and the Congress, questioned the validity of the voice vote here Wednesday.
The vote of confidence was followed by the Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde being declared Leader of Opposition, ending weeks of speculation on the party’s stance vis-a-vis its former ally of 25 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
However, the Congress termed the vote of confidence as “a murder of democracy” and the Shiv Sena labeled it a “strangulation of democracy” as well as “a black day” in the state’s history.
Both parties announced that they would register protests with Governor C.V. Rao. According to parliamentary practice, all votes of confidence are conducted on the basis of ballots, preceded by voice vote.
Launching unprecedented protests, legislators of the Shiv Sena and Congress, including former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, former ministers and senior leaders, squatted on the stairs of the Vidhan Bhavan, raising slogans and condemning the voice vote of confidence.
The day started peacefully with BJP leader Haribhau Bagde getting elected unopposed as the speaker after the Shiv Sena and Congress withdrew their candidates at the last minute.
Shortly thereafter, BJP legislator Ashish Shelar moved the one-line motion seeking confidence of the house in the government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
It was immediately put up for a voice vote by Speaker Bagde.
As the legislators who supported the motion said their ‘Ayes’, Bagde declared the motion as passed, raising protests from the Opposition Shiv Sena and Congress who were virtually taken by surprise at the sudden development.
Though some opposition members cried for “poll”, BJP Minister Vinod Tawde said the demand came after the election was completed as per the rules.
“The motion has been passed,” Bagde said amidst the din and several opposition legislators argued and protested, leading him to adjourn the proceedings.
Congress state president Manikrao Thakre alleged that the government has failed to prove its majority as per Governor C.V. Rao’s directives.
“This is a murder of democracy and the entire state has witnessed it. This government continues to be in minority and must resign immediately,” Thakre demanded.
Shiv Sena’s Ramdas Kadam and other leaders also demanded a count of the voice votes to ascertain how many were in favour of the BJP government.
“We shall urge the governor to either order a fresh of vote of confidence since today’s vote was not done properly. The A.B. Vajpayee government in the past at the Centre had fallen because of just one vote. Here, this government fell short of at least 25 votes and has no right to continue. We shall not allow the government to work,” Thakre declared.
Congress Legislature Party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said that the ruling party violated rules and must seek a fresh vote of confidence of the house, even as the party boycotted the proceedings of the final day of the three-day special session.
Continuing their vociferous protests, Shiv Sena-Congress legislators squatted on the staircase of Vidhan Bhavan while the Congress shot off a letter to Governor Rao on the issue.
When Governor Rao reached Vidhan Bhavan, his vehicle was blocked by the protesting legislators who heckled him and sought justice for the people of the state.
Fighting through the crowd of protesting legislators, the governor’s security and police escorted Rao inside the legislature where he delivered his address amidst continuing protests by Shiv Sena members till the speech ended.
The Sena has sought a division of the voice votes since the BJP has 121 legislators, the Shiv Sena 63, Congress 42, and NCP 41 legislators, besides 18 Independents and smaller parties, whose support the BJP has claimed.