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President’s Rule Imposed in Maharashtra

Amidst heightened political tensions and uncertainty over the post of Maharashtra’s next Chief Minister, President Ram Nath Kovind has imposed the President’s Rule in the state as per Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, acting on the recommendation of the Governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari.

The Maharashtra Political Derby has been in a juggernaut ever since the Legislative Assembly Elections of the state concluded towards the end of October. With none of the political party attending the majority mark for the 288 MLA seats of the state, the Governor invited BJP, the single largest party after the elections with 105 seats, to stake claim and form the Government.

But owing to inconclusive seat-sharing decisions with its pre-poll alliance partner i.e. Shiv Sena, BJP opt out of forming the Government.

The onus now fell on Shiv Sena, the second largest party with 55 seats to form the Government. But as it turned out, they could not garner enough support from the Congress Party and NCP to stack up the majority and ran out of time. While they were not granted further time by the Governor and even the third largest party i.e. NCP failing to secure enough support, Bhagat Singh Koshyari recommended the President of India to impose the President Rule in the State.

What is President’s Rule and what are its implications over the state?

President’s Rule and its Implications:
The Article 356 of the Indian Constitution “confers a power upon the President to be exercised only where he is satisfied that a situation has arisen where the government of a State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.

In practice, president’s rule has been imposed under any one of the following different circumstances:

  • A state legislature is unable to elect a leader as chief minister for a time prescribed by the Governor of that state, at the Will of Governor.
  • Breakdown of a coalition leading to the Chief Minister having minority support in the house and the Chief Minister fails/will definitely fail to prove otherwise, within a time prescribed by the Governor of that state.
  • Loss of majority in the assembly due to a vote of no-confidence in the house.
  • Elections postponed for unavoidable reasons like war, epidemic or natural disasters.
  • Article 356 state that the president can invoke president rule in a state on the report of the governor if the state machinery/legislature fails to abide by constitutional norms.

If approved by both houses, president’s rule can continue for 6 months. It can be extended for a maximum of 3 years with the approval of the Parliament done every 6 months. If the Lok Sabha is dissolved during this time, the rule is valid for 30 days from the first sitting of the Lok Sabha provided that this continuance has already been approved by Rajya Sabha. President’s rule can be revoked at any time by the president and does not need the Parliament’s approval.

The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 introduced a new provision to put a restraint on the power of the Parliament to extend the president’s rule in a state. According to this provision, the president’s rule can only be extended over a year every 6 months under the following conditions:

  • There is already a national emergency throughout India, or in the whole or any part of the state.
  • The Election Commission certifies that elections cannot be conducted in the concerned state.

With the mandate of the citizens of Maharashtra going for a toss, it remains to be seen as to how the political crisis can be curtailed. The political parties should try and get over their own issues with the political setup and think about the people who have voted for them. The imposition of President’s Rule is not the ultimate solution, it is an interface for soul-searching and indeed the crisis calls for a ‘soul searching’.

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