How Mamata Banerjee can retain CM status despite Nandigram loss
Even as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) recorded a landslide victory in the recent West Bengal Assembly elections, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lost in the Nandigram constituency to her former aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a battle that went down to the wire. However, Banerjee could still retain her Chief Ministerial position. Here's how.
What does the Constitution say?
According to Article 164(4) of the Constitution, "A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister." In other words, Banerjee will have six months to get elected from any constituency to the 294-seat West Bengal Assembly to retain her position.
Here's what a constitutional expert said:
"A non-member can become a minister, but he or she has to be elected within those six months to continue," constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap told The Indian Express. If he or she is not elected within six months, the person "loses the ministership," Kashyap added.
What does the process entail?
In order to make this happen, an MLA from the TMC would have to resign and give up their seat. This would warrant a bypoll to be conducted in the MLA's constituency. The chosen seat would be one that is deemed "safe," i.e., one where the TMC is popular. Hence, the chances of winning—and Banerjee being elected—would be considerably high.
Adhikari defeated Banerjee by slim 1,736-vote margin
My sincere thanks to the great People of Nandigram for their love, trust, blessings, and support, and for choosing me as their representative and the MLA from #Nandigram. It is my never-ending commitment to be of service to them and working for their welfare. I am truly grateful! pic.twitter.com/oQyeYswDa8— Suvendu Adhikari • শুভেন্দু অধিকারী (@SuvenduWB) May 2, 2021
Banerjee alleged foul play; EC dismissed recount appeal
Although Banerjee termed the TMC's win "a victory of democracy" and said she "accepted the verdict of Nandigram people," she alleged foul play and requested the Election Commission for a recount in the constituency. Hours later, however, the EC rejected the appeal, adding that the result will be officially declared after the VVPAT slips are tallied with the votes on the Electronic Voting Machines.
BJP questions Mamata's 'moral authority' to remain CM
This is BIG.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) May 2, 2021
Mamata Banerjee, the sitting Chief Minister, loses Nandigram.
BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari wins by 1,622 votes.
After this crushing defeat what moral authority will Mamata Banerjee have to retain her Chief Ministership?
Her defeat is a taint on TMC’s victory...
Bengal situation not without precedent
What is happening in Bengal is not unique. In 2017, Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar had lost from Mandrem seat. Parsekar's BJP went on to form the government with support from allies. However, in 2009, then Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren had lost in a bypoll. Since he wasn't a member of the Assembly, he had to quit and President's rule was imposed in the state.
Maharashtra CM retained post by being elected MLC last year
More recently, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had taken oath as CM in November 2019 despite not being a member of the state legislature. He retained his post by becoming a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in May 2020.