Amid Political Uncertainty, What Lies Ahead for Maharashtra as State Comes Under President's Rule

New Delhi: President's Rule was imposed in Maharashtra on Tuesday after President Ram Nath Kovind approved Governor BS Koshyari's report after no party could prove majority. At the same time, the Shiv Sena approached the Supreme Court seeking an urgent hearing against Governor BS Koshyari’s decision to not extend the deadline given to the Uddhav Thackeray-led party to prove they have the numbers to form the government.

Koshyari had given time to the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) till 8.30pm on Tuesday to prove it has the numbers after the Sena a day earlier failed to get letters of support from its political rivals before the deadline set by the Governor who rejected its plea for three more days to do so.

What is the present scenario?

There has been no conclusion in government formation even after more than a fortnight since the results of the Assembly elections were announced on October 24. Devendra Fadnavis last Friday drove to Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai and submitted his resignation as chief minister to Koshyari.

A day later, the Governor asked the BJP, the single largest party in the new Assembly, to “indicate its willingness and ability” to form the government in the state. However, the BJP on Sunday announced it would not be able to form the government right now, wishing the Sena “good luck” if it wanted to form the government with the help of the opposition Congress and the NCP.

The Election Commission of India also published a notification on October 25, convening the newly-elected Assembly.

Maharashtra has a total of 288 Assembly seats. The BJP has the highest number – 105 -- but is not near the halfway mark of 144. The Sena has 56 seats. The NCP and the Congress have 54 and 44 seats, respectively. While the BJP has been reaching out to Independents and smaller parties, it still does not have the numbers to form the government without the Sena’s support. And while the Sena has been eyeing the chief minister’s post, it is not in a position to form the government without the BJP either, unless both the Congress and the NCP prop up a government formed by the Sena.

What is President’s Rule?

Article 356 of the Constitution provides for the imposition of President’s Rule in a state in “case of failure of the constitutional machinery in the state”. As per the constitutional stipulation, it can be imposed in cases where the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the state or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

If approved by both Houses, President's Rule can continue for six months. It can be extended for a maximum of three years with the approval of the Parliament needed every six months.

Can parties approach the Governor during President’s Rule?

President’s Rule can be imposed in the state for six months after which the EC will have to announce fresh polls in Maharashtra. However, if any political formulation emerges in the meantime that can prove its majority on the floor of the House, President’s Rule can be dissolved.

Have there been precedents?

The state has had two stints of President's Rule -- once for 112 days from February 17, 1980, and June 8, 1980, when the government was dismissed in spite of Pawar enjoying majority support in the Assembly. More recently, between September 28, 2014, and October 31 the same year, the government was dismissed since the Congress separated from its allies.