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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Nisha Mohan Raney
is a journalist with AIR Mumbai.