Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, replying to a letter by Governor BS Koshyari, justified holding only a two-day monsoon session of the legislature saying that its duration could not be extended due to the present coronavirus pandemic. He was also non-committal on holding an election to the Speaker’s post during the two-day session, saying there was no timeframe for it.
Further, Thackeray urged Koshyari to pursue with the Centre the state government’s demand to share empirical data on the Other Backward Classes (OBC), to take steps for restoring political reservation for the community in local civic bodies. Koshyari, in his letter, had flagged issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis to extend the monsoon session duration, fill the Speaker’s post and postpone the local body elections pending OBC quota issue.
Thackeray’s letter said, “Medical experts have predicted a severe third wave", and that it was the responsibility of his government to take care of the health of the people and the elected representatives in the state.
The decision to hold a truncated monsoon session was taken in view of the continuing COVID pandemic, with cases of the new Delta-plus variant being reported in several districts of the state, the CM’s letter said.
The government was trying to hold the election for the legislative assembly speaker’s post at the earliest, he said. “It is better if each and every MLA can participate in the election process. There is no point in doing things in haste. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Union health ministry guidelines, an RT-PCR test done within 72 hours is held valid. So, it is not correct to declare a date in advance for holding the speaker’s election”, the CM explained in the letter.
Thackeray said deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal was officiating as the speaker and he had overseen the proceedings during the budget session held earlier this year. “There is no violation of constitutional provisions. There is no timeframe to hold the election for the speaker”, he added.
The Chief Minister also said the government had written to the State Election Commission (SEC), requesting it to postpone the byelections to zilla parishads and panchayat samitis. “We are expecting a positive response from the commission in view of the threat of spread of the Covid-19”, he said.
The SEC had recently declared elections to five zilla parishads and the byelections to seats in 33 panchayat samitis that were rendered vacant and converted to the general category following the Supreme Court verdict quashing OBC quota in local bodies.
“We have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find a constitutional solution to the issue. Empirical data of OBCs is required to provide representation to the community in local bodies. The data is with the Central government. I urge you to also pursue with the Centre to provide the empirical data of the 2011 census to enable the state government to take further steps”, his letter said.