Mumbai: The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Maharashtra Governor’s office, which have been known to be at loggerheads constantly, are locked in a battle once again.
On Thursday, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s office alleged that the Uddhav Thackeray government didn’t grant him permission to use a government plane for an official tour despite being informed well in advance about it. The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), however, denied this, saying Raj Bhavan officials didn’t take care of their responsibilities.
Koshyari, who had to travel Mussorie Thursday morning, had to de-board the government flight and urgently look for the next available commercial carrier.
“The Governor had to travel to Mussourie on Thursday morning. Our office had informed the state government about this tour on 2 February. The unsaid protocol is that the Governor shouldn’t need permission as such. The Governor’s office just has to intimate the state government, which we had done,” an official from Koshyari’s office said.
He said the letter about the Uttarakhand tour on 11 February was addressed to the principal secretary, aviation, general administration department and copies had been marked to the CMO and his personal secretary.
Koshyari had to travel to Uttarakhand as he is scheduled to preside over the valedictory ceremony of an IAS officers’ training and induction programme at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at 10 am Friday.
A statement from the governor’s office said, “Today, on 11th February 2021, the Hon’ble Governor reached the CSIM Airport at 1000 hrs and boarded the government plane. However, the Hon’ble Governor was informed that the permission for the use of Government Aircraft had not been received.”
It added, “As directed by the Hon’ble Governor, tickets for Dehradun were booked for the Governor on a Commercial Aircraft leaving Mumbai at 1215 hrs immediately and accordingly, he left for Dehradun.”
The CMO in a statement said the state government was not at fault and it was the responsibility of Raj Bhavan officials to ensure that an official plane is available to avoid any confusion for the Governor at the airport.
The statement said, “As per norm, before taking a government plane, permission is sought and a plane is made available only after getting an approval. On 10 February itself, the chief minister’s office had conveyed a message that permission has not been granted yet. It was expected that Raj Bhavan officials plan the Governor’s air travel and bring him to the airport only after getting an approval. The Governor was not able to travel by an official plane because Raj Bhavan officials did not follow up on the proposal in any way.”
It added, “Raj Bhavan was expected to take sufficient care about a post as important as the governor’s. The state government has taken a serious note of this and the CM has asked for responsibility to be fixed on the concerned Raj Bhavan officials.”
Valsa Nair Singh, who holds the charge of principal secretary, aviation, did not respond to ThePrint’s calls or text messages till the time of publishing this report.
Since the early months of the MVA government, its equation with Governor Koshyari has been far from cordial. Koshyari is a former BJP functionary and a staunch Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supporter.
Black page in Maharashtra’s history, BJP says
The opposition BJP lashed out at the MVA government over the episode, with opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis calling it a “black page in Maharashtra’s history”.
Speaking to reporters, Fadnavis, also a former CM, said, “What has happened is extremely wrong. He is not just any person. He is the governor of Maharashtra. As per our Constitution, the governor is the head. The Constitution said, the governor appoints the CM and ministers.”
Saying that the governor’s office had sought permission in accordance with procedure and had informed the chief secretary and CMO, Fadnavis added, “I have never seen such an egoistic government. I want to tell this government, this is not the private property of any CM, ministers or the government. It is extremely wrong that they are treating it as their private property. This is a black page in the history of Maharashtra.”
Pravin Darekar, opposition leader in the state legislative council, tweeted, “By denying permission to the Governor’s plane travel, the Thackeray government has broken age-old traditions. This is the limit of acting out of vengeance. I can understand politics and vengeance. But, the Governor is a constitutional post. It’s dignity must be maintained (sic).”
राज्यपालांच्या विमान प्रवासाला परवानगी नाकारून ठाकरे सरकारने प्रथा-परंपरांना हरताळ फासला आहे.हा सूड भावनेचा अतिरेक असून एवढ्या सूड भावनेने वागणारं सरकार आजपर्यंत पाहिलं नाही.राजकारण व सूड भावना समजू शकतो. पण राज्यपाल हे संविधानिक पद आहे,पदाची गरिमा राखली पाहिजे.@CMOMaharashtra
— Pravin Darekar – प्रविण दरेकर (@mipravindarekar) February 11, 2021
Conflicts with Raj Bhavan
In April 2020, the Governor’s office had kept the MVA government in suspense by sitting on the cabinet’s recommendation to appoint CM Thackeray to the state legislative council, prompting Shiv Sena leaders to point at Koshyari’s BJP affiliation for doing so.
According to norms, Thackeray, who did not contest the 2019 polls, had to become a member of either of the two Houses within six months of his swearing in as chief minister.
When Koshyari still did not react despite two requests, Thackeray asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene, following which the Governor asked the Election Commission to hold elections to nine vacant council seats at the earliest. Thackeray was then elected unopposed.
The Governor also locked horns with the CM when the BJP was protesting against the state government, asking it to reopen Maharashtra’s temples, which had been shut since the lockdown began in March. Eventually, the state government decided to open places of worship last month.
Koshyari and Thackeray had an acerbic correspondence over the issue in October with the former questioning if Thackeray, a proponent of Hindutva, has suddenly turned “secular”, and the latter hitting back by saying his Hindutva doesn’t need the Governor’s certificate.
The Governor had also been critical of the MVA government’s handling of the Covid crisis, actively calling review meetings at Raj Bhavan, and has also met the Shiv Sena’s detractors such as actor Kangana Ranaut and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.
Koshyari is also yet to approve the state cabinet’s recommendation of 12 nominated members to the state legislative council, despite the government having sent Raj Bhavan the file three months ago.