- Election Commission decided to hold elections to legislative council
- Huge break for Shiv Sena chief followed his phone conversation with PM
- This will be first election since nationwide COVID-19 lockdown began
An election that Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had fiercely demanded in order to secure his job will be held on May 21, in the midst of India's coronavirus fight.
The Election Commission, on recommendations from Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and the state government, decided today to hold elections to the legislative council or the upper house of the Maharashtra assembly. The meeting was held via video con with Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora joining from the US.
The first election since the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown will be held with virus precaution protocols and the home ministry's clearance.
Uddhav Thackeray, who became Chief Minister last year without contesting the Maharashtra polls, has to be a member of the upper house by May 28 - which has nine vacancies -- or he will have to resign.
But elections also due for 18 vacant seats in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, will not be held for now.
The huge break for the Shiv Sena chief followed his phone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening.
Mr Thackeray reportedly complained to the PM about "attempts to weaken his position" in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.
24 hours after that call, a formal request was made by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to the Election Commission for elections to the legislative council.
The elections had been postponed because of the tough lockdown imposed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
For Mr Thackeray, 59, winning one of the nine legislative council seats is unlikely to be any challenge - his three-party alliance has the numbers to ensure he wins.
Till Wednesday, Mr Thackeray and his party faced uncertainty because without polls, the only other option would be the Governor nominating him to the upper house on his quota.
The Maharashtra cabinet twice recommended that the Governor choose the Chief Minister as one of the two nominees he can appoint. The Governor's silence had the ruling coalition accusing the BJP of using governors to destabilize states ruled by rivals.
On Thursday, 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.