MVA leaders clutching at straws from defeat: BJP MP Mahesh Jethmalani on SC verdict

New Delhi: BJP MP and senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani Friday made light of the Congress and its Maharashtra allies’ claim of victory following the Supreme Court verdict on the political upheaval in the state last year, saying it amounted to these parties “clutching at straws from defeat”.

Interacting with reporters here, the Rajya Sabha member said the Supreme Court has in fact given a “constitutional cloak” to the BJP-Shiv Sena government which was sworn in after Uddhav Thackeray resigned as a majority of his party’s MLAs changed their allegiance to Eknath Shinde who replaced him at the helm.

The Shinde faction of Shiv Sena was later recognised by the Election Commission as the real Shiv Sena due to the majority support it enjoyed in the party’s legislature groups in the state and in Parliament.

Jethmalani said the Supreme Court, in its judgment on Thursday, rejected five of the seven prayers made by the petitioners and granted only two.

With the court disapproving then governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to call a floor test for Thackeray to prove his majority, the senior lawyer said it was a “sham, hollow and irrelevant victory” for the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the coalition of the Congress, NCP and the Uddhav faction of Shiv Sena, as it had no “practical” effect as the judges in their unanimous verdict also upheld the swearing-in of Shinde.

Jethmalani, however, added that he does not agree with this aspect of the judgment but qualified it by saying that the apex court is right as its verdict is final.

He said the Supreme Court has only asked the Assembly Speaker to revisit the matter of recognising Bharat Gogawale as the chief whip of the Shiv Sena while setting aside the earlier decision as against the law. Gogawale can be appointed to the position again, he said.

The Speaker will decide on the matter, including the issue of disqualifying MLAs who had rebelled and backed Shinde, on merit, the Rajya Sabha MP added.

“They are claiming victory in the face of defeat,” he said about the opposition’s claim.

The senior lawyer also slammed Thackeray and his allies for claiming moral victory, saying the morality of the issue was preconceived as it was the former chief minister who broke his party’s pre-poll alliance with the BJP after winning due to the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Thackeray did it to become chief minister and he betrayed the will of the people which is the most important aspect in a democracy, Jethmalani said.

The Congress on Thursday described the Supreme Court’s verdicts on the Maharashtra political row and the Delhi government’s powers as “seminal” and “path-breaking”, and said it is a slap on the BJP which has lost legally, morally, politically and ethically.

“The unholy, undemocratic and ugly nature of the BJP’s underbelly and back-belly has been exposed,” senior Congress leader and spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi had told a press conference.

Holding that Koshyari did not have reasons based on objective material before him to conclude that Thackeray had lost the confidence of the House, the top court said the governor is not empowered to enter the political arena and play a role (however minute) either in inter-party disputes or in intra-party disputes.

“The governor was not justified in calling upon Thackeray to prove his majority on the floor of the House because he did not have reasons based on objective material before him to reach the conclusion that Thackeray had lost the confidence of the House.

“However, the status quo ante cannot be restored because Thackeray did not face the floor test and tendered his resignation,” it said.