Uddhav Thackeray, who has less than a month to meet a basic requirement of his job as Chief Minister – become a member of the Maharashtra legislature – may just have caught a break.
24 hours after Mr Thackeray phoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a formal request has been made for elections to be held to the legislative council or upper house of the assembly. Mr Thackeray has till May 28 to join the council which has nine vacancies. However, the elections had been postponed because of the tough lockdown imposed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Thackeray took charge as Chief Minister of India’s richest state in November last year but he had not contested the election that took place in October. Any minister has to become a member of the legislature within six months of getting the position. Winning one of the nine seats is unlikely to be any sort of challenge for the 59-year-old – his three-party alliance certainly has the numbers to ensure he wins.
But till last evening, the elections appeared indefinitely postponed. Worried about Mr Thackeray’s tenuous position, the Maharashtra cabinet twice recommended that the Governor, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, choose the Chief Minister as one of the two nominees he can appoint to the legislative council. The Governor had not moved on that request.
With the deadline of May 28 looming, Mr Thackeray dialled the PM last night and reportedly spoke of attempts to weaken his position. The remonstrance was a combined complaint about both the Governor and the PM’s party, the BJP, thwarting Mr Thackeray’s ability to join the legislature.
Today, Governor Koshyari wrote to the Election Commission urging elections to the legislative council “at the earliest”. With various relaxations being introduced for the lockdown, he said it should be possible to conduct elections.