Ahead of the floor test in Maharashtra, what is more crucial is who becomes the pro-tem speaker.
And bagging this post is part of the BJP's plan to retain power, reports Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com
On Sunday, November 24, night, Ajit Pawar updated his Twitter bio to say: 'Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Nationalist Congress Party Leader', and therein lies the catch that will ensure the Bharatiya Janata Party's victory on the floor of the Maharashtra assembly.
As any legislator worth his votes knows, the floor test is 90% won if you have the assembly speaker on your side.
In a scenario such as prevailing in Maharashtra, where the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar have been sworn in and where the other side claims it has a clear majority, the speaker's role in a floor test is most critical.
Leaving nothing to chance, BJP leaders are already in touch with Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena MLAs.
They believe that though Sena and NCP MLAs have pledged allegiance to Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and NCP President Sharad Pawar, when the floor test takes place they will vote for the BJP's choice of speaker.
Whenever the assembly is convened, the senior-most MLA -- irrespective of which party he belongs to -- is appointed pro-tem speaker by the governor to administer the oath of office to the newly elected MLAs. The speaker's election is taken up thereafter.
This is what should have happened in Karnataka in 2018, but Governor Vajubbhai Vala ignored the guideline to appoint the senior-most legislator and chose BJP leader K G Bopaiah as the pro-tem speaker.
Going by this precedent, in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari too can ignore Balasaheb Thorat of the Congress party, who is the senior-most MLA, and appoint a senior BJP leader as pro-tem speaker.
If that happens, the BJP's chances of winning the trust vote would go up manifold.
The gameplan is when Chief Minister Fadnavis moves the trust vote, Ajit Pawar will issue a whip to NCP legislators to vote for the government.
At the same time, Jayant Patil, who replaced Ajit Pawar as the NCP's legislature party leader, will issue his own whip to party MLAs asking them to vote against the Fadnavis government.
Technically, Ajit Pawar claims he is still an NCP leader -- as he states in his Twitter bio -- and has not yet been expelled by his party for his rebellion.
It will be up to the speaker to decide who is recognised as the NCP's leader in the House and who to disqualify for disobeying the party whip.
The speaker can also rule that there is no clarity on the issue and keep the matter pending.
That is because, according to the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, the speaker's ruling is final: 'If any question arises as to whether a member of a House has become subject to disqualification under this Schedule, the question shall be referred for the decision of the chairman or, as the case may be, the speaker of such House and his decision shall be final.'
The BJP's plan is that while the speaker takes time to rule on the MLAs's disqualification, the Opposition will be rendered toothless.
With the Constitution not providing clarity on this issue, this is one loophole which the BJP wants to exploit. They know the ruling party has an edge because of this lacuna, which was why they blindsided all with their Constitutional coup on Saturday morning to occupy the gaddi.
BJP leaders are already saying, "Jiska speaker uski Maharashtra sarkar (who gets the speaker forms the government)."
Syed Firdaus Ashraf writes on politics, business, movies. He can be contacted at email@example.com