People went out and voted, but the treatment they have been subjected to is nothing short of a mockery and humiliation of their rights.
The party that won the most number of seats in Maharashtra has played hide and seek with its supporters, only disappointing them and ridiculing constitutional values along the way, while the party that is now going to assume power has had a history of bigotry and violence against minorities and migrants.
But how has the people’s vote – a character-definer of Indian democracy – been pulled, stretched and twisted? The Logical Indian explains.
The Bharatiya Janata Party expected to breach the majority mark in Maharashtra in the October state assembly polls, as they targeted a 220-seat-victory. But contrary to their expectations, they saw a dip in support from their core constituencies as the BJP won only 105 seats, compared to their overwhelming 2014 victory of 122 seats (up from the 46-seat mark in 2009).
The BJP-Sena alliance won a total of 161 seats this time, comfortably crossing the majority mark of 145 in the 288-strong Maharashtra assembly but the unanticipated cutback on their winning streak gave Shiv Sena the idea that they could negotiate with the BJP for equal power-sharing in the state cabinet.
Shiv Sena asked for rotational chief ministership along with a 50-50 share in cabinet portfolios. The BJP strongly refused to oblige these demands while Sena stood its ground reminding their alliance partners that the equal power-sharing deal was discussed and agreed upon by the party’s strategist and current Home Minister, Amit Shah before this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
However, the 35-year-old partnership broke up after BJP’s denial to admit the claim or accept the demand. Although not formally announced at first, the end of the alliance was obvious when Arvind Sawant – Sena’s only man in the Union Cabinet – resigned from his position.
When Governor Koshyari was told by the leading party that it did not have the numbers to form the government, he invited the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party to show it had the strength to lead the government.
After Shiv Sena’s failure to stake a claim on the 11th of November, NCP was given a 24-hour ultimatum to prove its numerical brawn on the 12th of November. However, before the deadline could be over, the Centre ‘advised’ Koshyari to impose President’s Rule in Maharashtra on the same day.
This was considered the Modi-led central government’s trick to buy BJP more time to acquire turncoat MLAs.
In wake of the Centre’s move, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP began discussions for an alternative government.
On 22nd November, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray met all of his party’s MLAs and with additional support, declared that Maharashtra’s chief minister would come from Shiv Sena.
Maharashtrians woke up to a pleasant cum unpleasant surprise on Saturday when a chief minister for the state had been sworn-in in a hushed ceremony at 7 am that morning.
On Saturday, Novemeber 23, President’s rule was revoked at 5.47 am by the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and with NCP’s Ajit Pawar supporting BJP’s desperate ascent to power, he along with Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the deputy chief minister and chief minister respectively.
Apart from being an RSS veteran, Koshyari has also been a BJP politician who served as Uttrakhand’s 2nd chief minister. He is under flak for “biased and mala fide” behaviour which saw him rescind the President’s rule in wee hours and swear-in his original party’s leaders into power which was a blatant violation of principles laid down by former President of India K.R. Narayanan. He had said that governors who don’t take steps to ensure the chief minister they are swearing in actually has the support of the requisite number of MLAs will only end up encouraging bribery and horse-trading.
The BJP in defence of Fadnavis claimed that the CM has the support of 170 MLAs, including Ajit Pawar’s MLAs and independent MLAs.
While Koshyari had given the BJP and Shiv Sena enough time to prove their ability to form the government, he had abruptly cut short on NCP’s time and denied Congress the chance altogether as he stated that it was impossible for the party to attain a majority unless “unconstitutional means” were adopted.
But he anyway allowed the sudden BJP-NCP coalition – that was formed without the consent of NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar, to form the government, while the world was snoozing its alarm buttons.
President Kovind revoked his office’s rule but he could have only acted based on a recommendation of the cabinet but there was no cabinet meeting or recommendation to that effect. The central government invoked Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, which allows the Prime Minister a departure from these rules in a situation of extreme urgency or unforeseen contingency. Quite obviously the swearing-in of a chief minister in this manner can hardly be regarded as a matter of “extreme urgency”.
Following the seemingly illegitimate sequence of events, Shiv Sena along with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party moved the Supreme Court against the Union government, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar for the political power-grabbing circus that was played out on November 23.
The court normally does not convene on the weekend, so last Sunday’s 11:30 hearing is an indication of the matter’s gravity and urgency.
In the petition, filed through advocate on record (AoR) Sunil Fernandes at 8:23 pm on Saturday, the parties have accused the Maharashtra governor of favouring the BJP.
“The Hon’ble Governor on 11.11.2019, for reasons best known to him, declined to accommodate the request for three days and rejected the claim of the Shiv Sena to form the Government,” the petition reads.
On Sunday, the apex court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to produce two letters before by Monday morning showing proof of the Governor of Maharashtra inviting BJP to form the government and another letter showing Fadnavis staking claim to form the government.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna also issued notices to Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
Before the country’s highest court was to rule on the need of a floor test in Maharashtra’s assembly, the tri-party alliance between Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena flocked their MLAs together in a room decorated with ‘We Are 162’ posters and took a “pledge” to stay together, attempt to make a statement of the numbers they possess.
Yesterday, the SC ordered the ‘Maharashtra government’ to conduct a floor test on the 27th of November to prove its majority without the secret-ballot method being adopted and the whole process to be telecasted for ensuring maximum transparency.
Although being a move in the right direction, never has such a high level of accountability been demanded of a political party signalling at the new lows the race to political supremacy has dropped.
But in nervous anxiety, before the SC-ordered floor test could be conducted, Ajit Pawar resigned as the Deputy Cheif Minister and Devendra Fadnavis stepped down from his assumed chief ministership petulantly claiming in a subsequent press conference that the rest of the political parties were running a “BJP-hatao” campaign.
If the BJP had rushed the Governor and the President into reinstating the state government’s rule on the claim of having the majority, why did they resign a day before they were asked to prove their self-claimed majority?
Someone did lie and the caused more upheaval in already mounting political instability. This has also raised serious questions on Koshyari’s credibility and honesty as it was he who allowed Fadnavis to brusquely take over the CM’s post before the sun rose on Mumbai skyline.
Now, in order to cover up the embarrassment caused by its men in Maharastra, the Centre is rumoured to transfer Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and replace him with Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra.
What has been a month of political turbulence is hoped to culminate in a stable government that acts on its promises made. As #BJPMuktBharat trends on Twitter and Uddhav Thackeray is set to take his oath as the new Chief Minister, the people of Maharashtra will have to see if they are subjected to arrogant ignorance or just governance.