The Maharashtra Governor has ticked off boxes rather than honouring the spirit of a federal, democratic system
As Maharashtra hurtles towards Presidential Rule, it has shown how a valid electoral verdict and ethics can be subverted by political greed of the day. Not only that, it shows how a centrist party, no matter what the verdict in States, can use the offices under its purview to turn any result in its favour. And justify its act as only following a precedent of Congress or its coalition governments at the Centre instead of correcting it. Although the BJP and Shiv Sena had worked out a pre-poll alliance, which was even endorsed by voters, the former’s arrogance as the lead partner and the latter’s insistence on an equal role tore it apart. The former willingly let its junior partner drift away and challenged its ability to prop up an alternative coalition. The Sena tried its best but with ideological divergences paring down its chances of forming a stable Government with the Opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), it is out in the cold without the numbers. No matter how tempting the opportunity to use the electoral window to jump into governance, the Congress and the NCP are looking beyond local legislators to the larger impropriety of convenience tarnishing their national image. The BJP, which is a keen believer of one-party homogeneity across the nation, is having the last laugh as the only possible choice. So it has lost no time in overturning the ethics of the Governor’s office and emaciating a democratic federal structure. The Governor, while giving ample time to the BJP to stake a claim, didn’t even ask for a floor test and gave in to Chief Minister-elect Devendra Fadnavis’ inability to procure requisite numbers, which he ought to have done according to the rules and spirit of parliamentary democracy. While Governor BS Koshyari ticked off the boxes on technicality, he did not give adequate time to the Opposition parties and even an adrift Sena for crystallising their adjustments before committing to furnishing letters of support. One must remember that individually none of them had the moral right to begin such exercises given the decisive nature of the verdict in favour of BJP-Sena. Yet the Sena got 48 hours to furnish proof and the NCP just 24 hours, the last a bigger travesty as reports emerged that the Governor had recommended President’s Rule even before the latter’s deadline expired. Constitutionally, the Governor should have insisted on floor tests in the House as according to the judgment in the Bommai vs Union of India case in 1994, “the assessment of the strength of the Ministry is not a matter of private opinion or any individual, be he the Governor or the President.” The ruling is very clear about “demonstrating” strengths and not relying on subjective assessments. This has only lent credence to theories that President’s Rule anyway was an extension counter of the ruling party and the State would still be at BJP’s command, with or without Fadnavis. While Sena has moved the Supreme Court questioning the Governor’s role, the State may appear to be in limbo but in reality, is in the BJP’s kitty.
Going by latest precedents in States, the BJP has assumed power despite not emerging as the single-largest party, be it by cobbling up post-poll alliances, breaking Opposition ranks or devouring any claimants. Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya stand out as examples where the Congress was actually the single-largest party. Then there was the embarrassment of March 2016, when Congress rebels and BJP MLAs challenged the Harish Rawat-led Congress Government in Uttarakhand over the Finance Bill. The rebel MLAs were later disqualified. Governor KK Paul asked the Modi Government to impose President’s Rule in the State, but Uttarakhand High Court Judge KM Joseph quashed it and Rawat proved his majority in the House. All these examples of violations prove there is an internecine plot to erode the spirit of alliance politics in general and the regional partners in particular, making them look like puppets in a shadow play, so facile that the voter changes his/her pattern in the next round of elections. As political parties hide their ambitions with the fig leaf of responsibility, Maharashtra is indeed in a crisis. It still records the most farmer suicides — more than 12,000 in the four years from 2015-2019. The largest State economy in the country is in the middle of a halting slowdown, a collapsed real estate sector, agrarian distress and loss of jobs and manufacturing. All talk of Marathi pride is actually a condensation of deeper aspirations to ride out this morass. And that surely cannot happen with an imposition of authority but stakeholdership.
Wednesday, 13 November 2019 | Pioneer
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