December 01, 2019

BJP Exposed in Maharashtra Debacle

NOW that the three-day wonder of the Fadnavis government has disappeared, one can look back at the whole sordid episode for what lessons can be learnt.

happened on the night of November 23 and morning of 24 was a brazen assault on the constitution and democratic principles. More disturbingly, three constitutional authorities were involved in this self-incriminating project – the governor, the prime minister and the president of India. They all acted at the behest of the BJP and the interests of the ruling party at the centre rather than follow constitutional norms.

By swearing-in Devendra Fadnavis as the chief minister based on a bogus support letter provided by the NCP legislative party leader Ajit Pawar, governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari misused his office to fulfill the intent of the party he belonged to.  This was compounded by the manner in which he recommended the lifting of president’s rule in the middle of the night.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, got the assent for lifting presidential rule through without approval of the cabinet at 5.47 am in the morning. For this, he invoked the provision in the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules which provides for such an exigency on an emergent basis. The prime minister had no qualms in invoking this rule for effecting the midnight political coup.   

Finally, the president of India, signed off on the lifting of president’s rule without satisfying himself that due process and norms had been followed.

All this was done to pre-empt the chances of a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, which had a clear majority, coming to power.

However, this does not explain the extent of the assault on the constitution and parliamentary democracy. How was the BJP so confident that it could get away with this anti-democratic project?  It was arrogantly cocksure, because it had full confidence that its deployment of money power and use of the corruption gambit, would ensure sufficient numbers to cross over.

The Maharashtra episode has revealed the depths to which the BJP uses big money and intimidation through State agencies to suborn political loyalties. The defection of Ajit Pawar is damning testimony. 48 hours after being sworn-in as the deputy chief minister, the Anti-Corruption Bureau dropped charges in nine cases in the irrigation scam against him.  Earlier, Devendra Fadnavis, as an opposition MLA, had accused Pawar of being the “kingpin” behind the Rs 70,000 crore scam. It is reported that the BJP was willing to pay enormous sums of money for each NCP MLA to defect. 

The BJP had suffered a similar setback in Karnataka last year, when it got the governor to swear-in Yediyurappa as chief minister. Only to have him resign when the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in 24 hours time. 

This has, obviously, not chastened the BJP or its president Amit Shah. Back in power with a bigger majority and becoming the home minister has only emboldened the “Chanakya” to undertake more dirty tricks. But this hubris has resulted in a humiliating debacle.

The Supreme Court order for a floor test the very next day pricked the balloon of the unconstitutional and unrepresentative government. For the sake of democracy and the constitution, the court should look into the whole episode and pin down the culprits responsible. 

For the people of India, the Maharashtra shenanigans have been an eye-opener about the anti-democratic, authoritarian character of the BJP and the RSS functionaries who lead it. 

The new government headed by Uddhav Thackeray should work according to the Common Minimum Programme decided by the three- party alliance. This is what the people of Maharashtra expect it to do. This is all the more important since the constituents of the government hold ideologically opposing views.

(November 27, 2019)