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CM Uddhav Thackeray gets chance to meet constitutional requirement
New Delhi, May 1, 2020
The Election Commission (EC) today said it would hold the biennial election by members of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (MLAs) on May 21 to fill the nine vacant seats in the state Legislative Council -- a move that will enable Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to retain his position by getting elected to one of the houses of legislature before the six-month deadline expires on May 27.
The notification for the election will be issued on May 4 and the last date for making nominations is May 11. Polling will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on May 21 and counting of votes will be taken up at 5 pm on the same day.
The decision was taken by the EC at a meeting here today to review the feasibility of conducting the election, a day after it received a letter from Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in this regard. The Chief Secretary of the state had also written to the EC yesterday on the subject.
The Governor's letter to the EC was sent after the Maharashtra Cabinet had recommended to him last month the nomination of Thackeray as a member of the Legislative Council out of his quota of two seats in the House.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora joined the meeting with Eelction Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra over a video call from the United States, an official press release said.
The nine seats in the Council had become vacant on April 24. The EC had issued an order on April 3 deferring the elections till further orders in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The release said that the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra had pointed out in his letter of April 30 the various measures taken to control the pandemic. He said that, in the State Government's assessment, the elections could be held in a safe environment. The State Government assured the Commission that it is fully committed to ensuring that the elections are held in total hygienic conditions with social distancing measures and other conditions imposed by the competent authorities.
Citing the Union Home Ministry’s order dated 29th April 2020 concerning permitting the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded due to lock-down orders, State Government has reiterated that it will facilitate and ensure that the elections are conducted by following all directions in the matter.
The Governor's letter to the Commission indicated the feasibility of conducting the elections. Koshyari also mentioned that Thackeray was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on 28th November, 2019 and pointed out that as per constitutional provisions he has to become a member of either the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council within a period of six months, that is, on or before the 27th May, 2020.
Koshyari also stated that the ground level situation is contained and as of now appeared to be improving with several relaxations being made by the Government. Hence, keeping in view the entire situation, he requested the Election Commission to consider working out modalities to hold elections.
"Commission also took note of representations from various political parties– the Maharashtra Vidhanmandal Congress Paksh, the Shiv Sena VidhiMandal Paksh and, the Rashtravadi Congress Party requesting Commission to conduct the said election, the schedule of which was deferred due to force majeure conditions.
"While taking note of all the above, Commission reviewed the past precedents in such unforeseen situations. In cases of former Prime Ministers P. V Narasimha Rao in 1991 and H D Deve Gowda in 1996; and several Chief Ministers of states (like Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister Rajasthan in 1991; Rabri Devi, Chief Minister Bihar in 1997, Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1993, Chief Minister Uttar Pradesh & four Ministers in 2017, and Chief Minister Nagaland in 2017), Commission conducted bye-elections to fulfil similar constitutional requirement. Commission noted that this has been the consistent practice in the past," the release said.
"After taking all these into consideration, Commission has decided to conduct the said biennial election in the State of Maharashtra," it said.
"Commission also decided that the Union Home Secretary, who is Chairperson of National Executive Committee in ex-officio capacity under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, should depute an officer of suitable seniority to ensure that the preventive measures are put in place in keeping with the provisions of the said Act for the smooth conduct of the electoral process for the said election.
"Commission has also directed the Chief Secretary to depute an officer from the State to ensure that the extant instructions regarding COVID-19 are complied with while making arrangements for conducting the elections.
"Further Commission has appointed Chief Electoral Officer, Maharashtra as Observer for this election.
"Commission also decided to review other deferred elections in the next week," the release said.
The vacancies were caused by the retirement on April 24 of nine members -- Neelam Diwakar Gorhe, Hemant Prabhakar Takle, Anand Rajendra Thakur, Smita Uday Wagh, Prithviraj Sayajirao Deshmukh, Kiran Jagannath Pawaskar, Arunbhau Janardhan Adsad, Chandrakant Batesing Raghuvanshi and Harising Nasru Rathod.