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75 Years of Maharashtra Legislature 

Nisha Mohan Raney


Mumbai: October 18,2011

According to Plato, democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. 75 years ago, people of Maharashtra had a taste of democracy. 75 years ago, one of the oldest bicameral legislatures, the Maharashtra Legislature came into existence. 75 years down the line, although the state's geography and its demographics have changed; the process of democracy and electing people's representatives has only just strengthened. Maharashtra Legislature, which is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year, stands witness not only to the social changes but also the constitutional developments in India.

 

The Genesis

The history of Maharashtra's Legislature is as interesting and varied as the state's diverse nature. In the late 1930s, Maharashtra was just a small part of the 'Bombay Presidency' which also included present-day state of Gujarat, parts of Karnataka, Pakistan's Sindh province and the then British territory of Aden in Yemen. After the Government of India Act 1935, which envisaged a federal type of government; elections were held in 1937 to form provincial governments. The Indian National Congress won the elections in Bombay. B G Kher became the first Chief Minister (then called the Prime Minister). At that time the Bombay Assembly had a total strength of 175 members. The first session of this august assembly was held on 19th July, 1937 in Pune's Council Hall. The first session of the upper house, the legislative council was held a day later on July 20, 1937. As part of the freedom movement, in the year 1939 all Congress ministries in British Indian provinces resigned and Bombay was placed under Governor's rule. It was only in the year 1946 that elections were once again held in Bombay. This time too, Congress won and formed the government under Mr. Kher who continued as Chief Minister even after India's independence till 1952.

 

By this time the numerical strength of the lower house rose to 233. India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru addressed a special session of the state legislature on October 6, 1949 at Council Hall, Pune. In that historic speech, Panditji had warned that however important a state's independence and development may be, it should never overshadow India's unity.

 

In a unique coincidence of sorts, those members who had been elected to the state legislature in 1946 had to take an oath of membership not just once but three times! The first time in 1946, the Kher government took the oath in the name of the King of England and the Badshah of Hindustan. The second time, in 1947, the Kher government took the oath of membership in the name of India. The last time, in 1950, the members swore allegiance to the sovereign constitution of India.

 

Reorganization of States

In 1956, following the reorganization of states on linguistic basis, the State of Bombay was significantly enlarged expanding eastward to incorporate the Marathi-speaking Marathwada region of Hyderabad, the Marathi-speaking Vidarbha region of southern Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarati-speaking Saurashtra and Kutch. The state was then widely referred as Maha Dwibhashi Rajya, meaning the great bilingual state.

 

In 1960, following widespread protests, the bilingual State of Bombay was bifurcated into two new States of Maharashtra and Gujarat by the Bombay Reorganization Act, 1960. The present State of Maharashtra came into being on 1st May 1960. Yashwatrao Chavan became the first Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

 

 Nagpur becomes the second capital

By this time, Mumbai had become the seat of power and Pune had slowly receded from the political prominance. Nagpur was named as the auxiliary capital of the newly formed state. The Maharashtra government decided to hold the budget and the monsoon session of the legislature in Mumbai, while the winter session would be held in Nagpur. The tradition continues till date.

 

The budget and the monsoon sessions of the legislature are held in Vidhan Bhavan, situated in the bustling business district of Nariman Point in South Mumbai. The building was inaugurated by former Prime Minister, the late Smt. Indira Gandhi, on April 19, 1981. Till then, the sessions were held in the old Legislature building near the Gateway of India which today houses the State police headquarters.

 

Landmark Acts

In the last 75 years, the Maharashtra legislature has passed many important laws; some were pioneering enough to be adopted by the whole nation. Prominent among them being Drugs Control Act, Employment Guarantee Act, Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Ac, Right To Information Act etc.

 

Stalwarts and luminaries

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar once said that a great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society. Many such public servants including Dr. Ambedkar himself were members of the Bombay Province when it came into existence in 1937. Morarji Desai, Yashwantrao Chavan, Sharad Pawar, , Manohar Joshi, and Vilasrao Deshmukh have been some of the Chief Ministers who have proceeded from the Maharashtra Assembly towards the Indian Parliament. Opposition Leaders in Maharashtra Assembly like Gopinath Munde, Prabha Rao and Prathibha Devising Patil have also made their mark on the national stage.

The legislative council too had its fair share of stalwarts and luminaries. People from diverse fields like lyricist Shantaram Nandgaonkar, Marathi poet Sarojini Babar, Prof. N.D. Mahanor, lyricist and poet G.D. Madgulkar, Islamic scholar Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, RSS leader M.G. Vaidya and satirist Prof. Ramdas Phutane have been members of the upper house. More recently, Pramod Navalkar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Nitin Gadkari and Dutta Meghe have been some of the eminent members of the Maharashtra legislative Council.

 

Platinum Jubilee Celebrations

President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil will grace the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the Maharashtra Legislature. Nearly 50 years ago, Smt. Patil had begun her political career as a legislator in this state assembly. As part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the Maharshtra Government has planned to start live telecast of Question Hour and proceeding on the lines of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV channels.

 

Nisha Mohan Raney is a journalist with AIR Mumbai.

 Article courtesy www.newsonair.com,

 

 PIB Feature/MH/12
 

 
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