Integrity is the name of the crisis that the BJP has created by its actions in Maharashtra. In order to end a minor crisis, it has created a monumental one. And the President, the Maharashtra governor, the Prime Minister and the Union home minister have all been sucked into it.
The crisis, both constitutional and political, is evolving by the hour and just at the ponderous 24-hour cycle of a day. Stalled by the Supreme Court for 48 hours now, the political Opposition in Maharashtra has decided to tackle the issue of legitimacy of the dawn drama in Maharshtra on November 23 by challenging the claim of majority of the newly-installed ministry of Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP and Ajit Pawar, of disputed political affiliation, since he is no longer the legislature party chief of the Nationalist Congress Party.
The signed list of 162 members of the Maharashtra Assembly submitted by the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress to governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari makes nonsense of two things — first, the governor’s integrity, and second, the constitutional legitimacy of the Devendra Fadnavis government. The governor used his wisdom to organise the dawn drama by writing to home minister Amit Shah that President’s Rule in Maharashtra should be immediately revoked. Without calling a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi concurred with the judgment and requested the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, to sign on the dotted line. Mr Koshyari then arranged a speedy swearing-in.
In doing so, the governor must accept responsibility for having reasons to believe that Mr Fadnavis’ claim was backed by a “stable” majority that would end the “uncertainty” in the nation’s finance capital, namely Mumbai. The list of 162 MLAs, with their signatures, contradicts the truth of the governor’s call, that Mr Fadnavis had a majority. The home minister bought the governor’s story, and then sold it to the Prime Minister, who then advised the President to revoke President’s Rule and make way for a Fadnavis government.
The BJP can trade all the horses it wants, but it cannot put back together again the broken bits of its claim to being a clean party. Instead of draining the stinking swamp of intrigue and corruption created allegedly by the Congress over 70 years, the BJP has deepened and widened it. It swindled; its claim to a majority was a fraud. The BJP can pass the buck to Ajit Pawar for perpetrating the fraud, by submitting a list of MLAs from the NCP who supported the new deal, though in fact the majority of these MLAs were not party to the deal. In buying Ajit Pawar’s scam, the BJP is an accessory.
By stalling for time to do something with the documents it asked for and ponder on the arguments it heard, the Supreme Court is allowing itself to be swamped. In any case, the Supreme Court cannot decide on the integrity of the people involved. Nor can it question the intentions of those involved. Deconstructing the difference between the Supreme Court’s response in the Karnataka case and the Maharashtra one, must await what the court finally has to say on the matter. What cannot be postponed is raising an alarm over the snowballing constitutional crisis.
The body snatching tactics of the BJP have been honed over several successful such ambushes. In the popular imagination, it overturns negative mandates into positive outcomes by launching “Operation Lotus” or Operation Kamal. In Karnataka, by handing out 13 BJP tickets to contest the byelections, the connection between Operation Lotus and defections is as simple as putting two and two together. In Goa, the BJP accommodated the bulk of Congress MLAs and put itself in power. In Haryana, the BJP won over the Jannayak Janta Party. Being the party with a minority of MLAs, as in Maharashtra, is not a hurdle; the BJP has the necessary magic to jump over it.
The BJP has become an expert at pulling off heists. By normalising poaching or defections to stitch together majorities, it mocks the institution of political parties and multi-party democracy. The lament of “libtards” or “secular sepoys” or people simply opposed to the Sangh Parivar that the Opposition in India has crumbled is entirely true. If the opponent can be taken over when the BJP’s ends require it, no matter what the means used, then political parties do not matter.
Therefore, the idea of multi-party democracy is invalid. Minor hitches like the anti-defection law are just that. As long as the BJP issues tickets to defectors and ensures that they win, other political parties are shells with signboards.
Prevailing under any circumstances seems to be the BJP’s modus operandi and the future that the party is committed to establishing in India. The events in Maharashtra confirm this. Having accepted on November 8 that he did not have a majority as the Shiv Sena would not back a government led by him, the sudden ascension to the chief minister’s chair was an incredible transformation. The timing of the event, hours before the NCP, Shiv Sena and the Congress were expected to stake their claim to form the government in Maharashtra underscores the determination of the BJP to prevail.
The question is, can this be read as a signal to voters in Jharkhand that they should back off from supporting parties other than the BJP? There are a series of questions that follow from the events in Maharashtra. Will the Maharashtra operations become the template for future state Assembly elections in India for as long as the BJP does not crumble under its own contradictions? Can this be read as a signal to the non-BJP-ruled states that there will be another heist? And will the courts be turned into gobsmacked spectators? If events outpace the speed at which the courts can respond to issues of legitimacy, then that is exactly what they will be. Neither fair play nor justice have any meaning left as the BJP barrels its way into office, with or without a mandate.