- The court will hear a petition by the Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP combine
- While Mr Fadnavis took charge on Monday, Ajit Pawar did not
- Ajit Pawar's party chief and uncle Sharad Pawar insists he went rogue
While Mr Fadnavis took charge on Monday, Ajit Pawar did not. The rival group of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress has submitted court documents with 154 MLA signatures and has called for an "immediate" test of strength in the Maharashtra assembly.
A floor test can be called within a day, or two-three days, or even 14 days. In 2018, after the Supreme Court ordered a trust vote within 24 hours, the BJP's BS Yediyurappa, who had taken oath as the Chief Minister, stepped down saying he didn't have the numbers.
"We have 170 MLAs. The Governor saw the support of 170 MLAs. It is not a forged letter. The (BJP) was called and it took oath," said former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing Mr Fadnavis and the BJP, on Monday. The BJP, which has 105 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, needs 40 more to reach the majority-mark of 145.
During the arguments on Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Governor's office, said Ajit Pawar had submitted signatures of all 54 NCP MLAs on Friday, and it was after this letter that Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had invited Devendra Fadnavis to form government. The governor, he said, couldn't go for any roving inquiry and he had no reason to doubt the letter.
Appearing for BJP MLAs and two Independents, Mukul Rohatgi claimed that the Governor's decision cannot be subject to a judicial review. "My pre-poll partner (Sena) is not willing to join me. NCP through Ajit Pawar, the NCP legislature party leader, supports me. One Pawar is here.What's in the family, we are not concerned," Mr Rohatgi said.
Kapil Sibal, representing the rival alliance, called the BJP government formation "fraud of democracy" and called for an immediate floor test. "What's the national emergency to revoke President rule? Why did these things happen between 7 PM and 5.47 am? Can't Governor wait for 24 hours," he questioned. He remarked, on Ajit Pawar, that "the jockey has run away but the horse are here together".
Mukul Rohatgi argued that the government must be given time to take a floor test and a speaker has to be elected after an interim speaker administers oath to the new MLAs. But the NCP's lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued against it, saying Ajit Pawar would try to issue a whip for the election of a Speaker and that would be illegal since he is no longer the chief of the legislature party.
The Supreme Court held a special Sunday hearing on the petition and asked the centre to produce the letter from Devendra Fadnavis claiming majority and that of the Governor inviting him to form government.
Ajit Pawar's party chief and uncle Sharad Pawar insists he went rogue and submitted a letter with signatures collected from MLAs for the Sena-led alliance, with a cover letter that claimed support to the BJP.
In their petition, the three parties have claimed that the Governor was "duty bound" to study the claim of Mr Fadnavis before inviting him to form government. This was especially the case when the Sena, NCP and the Congress expressed their intention to stake claim to form the government, they said.