Change of Government in Maharashtra is a Threat to Democracy

  • Atul Londhe

A flurry of questions arises because of the way in which the BJP has formed the government by replacing the Maha Vikas Aghadi government with Shiv Sena’s rebel leader Eknath Shinde in Maharashtra. The question here is - if all the tactics, violating the laws fixed by the legislature of the country, have been adopted for the change of government? Has the anti-defection law been modified according to their own whims and fancies for the change of government? Was the fire of rebellion sparked off purposefully in Shiv Sena by showing fear of central investigative agencies? Has the Governor of Maharashtra not followed the prescribed parameters under the Constitution? These are the questions that the people of Maharashtra as well as the people of the country have been brainstorming about. Through this article, I will try to tell you how BJP conspired to flip government in Maharashtra under a particular agenda. How BJP has conspired to eliminate the same Shiv Sena in the state, with the help of which it expanded its wings in Maharashtra.

A Different Situation in Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, BJP neither got success in the assembly in 2014 nor was it able to secure power in 2019 on its own. On the other hand, Maharashtra’s position is different from the rest of the country in terms of vote pattern. Here, Shiv Sena and BJP stake their claim on Hindu votes, while the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have a share in the secular votes.

Conspiracy against Shiv Sena

BJP clung to Shiv Sena from the very beginning to establish its foothold in Maharashtra. But as soon as the situation changed after the year 2014, Shiv Sena asked for an equal share from the BJP under the alliance of Yuti. BJP did not like this. Shiv Sena was identified by fighting against those who spread terror in the country and with the politics of Hindutva. Later, it was started to be said that Shiv Sena is Mumbai and Mumbai is Shiv Sena (They are inseparable). In the year 2019, when Shiv Sena proposed to the BJP a Chief Ministership of two and a half years each for both, the BJP rejected it outright.

Efforts to topple the government for two and a half years

It was a new experiment in the country when after breaking the alliance with BJP, Shiv Sena formed Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra under ‘The Common Minimum Programme’ with Congress and NCP, which was highly appreciated by the people of Maharashtra. BJP did not like this new experiment. It felt that this experiment could prove fatal for them in Maharashtra as well as at the national level. This is the reason why the BJP got involved in a conspiracy to topple the Aghadi government right from the day of inception of this government. Political experts believed that a few days after the formation of the government, the Congress would walk out of the MahavikasAghadi government due to pressure, or the NCP leaders would join hands with the BJP for fear of the central investigative agencies. But NCP President Sharad Pawar has proved that he is not going to compromise on his secular values. BJP’s attempt is to project itself as the only Hinduvaadi party. Keeping this in mind, it has tried to topple the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government by dismantling Shiv Sena. BJP won this power game fulfilling the said purpose, but democracy got hurt in the process.

The Constitution and the Judicial System Blown Away

During the toppling of the Aghadi government in Maharashtra, the Judiciary and the Constitution were severely splintered. In our country, the legislature makes laws keeping in mind its people. The executive works to implement the policies and programmes of the government while the judiciary works to interpret laws and deliver justice. There is a check and balance between all of them, but this check and balance has been disregarded several times in the last eight years. Whereas in the case of Maharashtra, it has been seen to be failing at every front. This is the biggest challenge before the democracy of the country in the coming days. In the year 2003, while hearing the Rajendra Singh Rana case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had said that under the Anti-Defection Act, the first list should be considered as the basis. In the case of Shiv Sena, the first list sent by the Eknath Shinde faction to the Governor of Maharashtra, had 34 MLAs, which was less than two-thirds of the MLAs. This means that the Shinde faction did not have a majority. At that time, the President of the original party (Shiv Sena) was Uddhav Thackeray. He had appointed the new Legislature Party leader and whip of his party. Its decision is yet to be taken up in the Supreme Court hearing. The big question is whether what the Hon’ble Supreme Court had said in the Rana case in the year 2003 will be applicable in the case of Shiv Sena in the year 2022 as well or not! When no Speaker has been appointed in the Legislative Assembly, then the Deputy Speaker has all the powers. At a time when the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly has initiated action against the MLAs under the Anti-Defection Act, how appropriate is it on the parameters of Law and Constitution to resort to retortion at the same time to remove them.

Question on the Governor’s Decision

After the resignation of Nana Patole from the post of Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, the legislature had enacted a law, which was in accordance with the law of the Lok Sabha. Under this, instead of secret ballot, the election of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly was allowed to be conducted through voice vote. This law was also recognized by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. This process was challenged by a BJP MLA in the Supreme Court, whose hearing is still pending. Citing this reason, the Governor of Maharashtra did not allow the Speaker’s election to be held despite repeated appeals by the Aghadi government. But as soon as the government changed in the state, the Governor gave permission to hold the Speaker’s election. The question is whether the Governor can take such a decision by bypassing the Anti-defection law or not?

Reason for Rebellion in Shiv Sena

There could be two reasons for the rebellion that took place in Shiv Sena today. First, the ambition of the MLAs and second, the pressure of the investigating agencies. Therefore, it could be an afterthought that by forming the government with the BJP, one could save his personal wealth and reputation and also gain power. Keeping this in mind, 40 rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena accepted this role. However, it is difficult to say how long this government which has been formed with this backdrop can last. Similarly, without a concrete ideology, the further journey of the Eknath Shinde faction also seems uncertain as they do not have any core ideology of their own.

Only Congress can Challenge BJP

Looking at this whole incident, one thing is clear that as former Congress President and MP Shri Rahul Gandhi has said that only Congress can challenge BJP in the country. This seems to be proving true in Maharashtra’s experiment. In any situation, the Congress being firm about its views is an important aspect of the future politics of the country. Congress Party is huge. People will keep coming into and going out of it, but our Party is quite efficient and strong in terms of institution and organization. In such a situation, it will never be possible for BJP to break the Congress. Be it the pressure of the investigating agency or any other kind of inducement. Congress party is never going to bow down in front of BJP.

Shinde Faction did not demand the Vote of Confidence

The shocking fact in this whole matter is that the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena, who demanded the Vote of Confidence, did not go to the Governor. Rather, the then leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis demanded a Vote of Confidence from the Governor. Earlier, Fadnavis was describing the rebellion in Shiv Sena as its internal matter. When the Shinde faction, claiming itself to be a Shiv Sena party, did not demand a Vote of Confidence, then how did the BJP come to know that the MahavikasAghadi government was no longer in majority. In such a situation, questions are being raised that when this conspiracy was being hatched against the Aghadi government, instead of playing a neutral role under the Constitution, if the Governor was working in favor of the BJP? All these things should also be taken into account by the Supreme Court during its hearing.

Important hearing in Supreme Court

A two-member bench of the Supreme Court ordered the Vote of Confidence to be proved in the House even as the majority figure in the Maharashtra Legislature is final and the verdict on the disqualification of Shiv Sena MLAs is pending. On one hand, while Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray-appointed Legislature Party leader and Chief Pratod Sunil Prabhu wrote a letter to the Deputy Speaker to disqualify 17 rebel MLAs, on the other hand Pratod Bharat Gogavale, appointed by Shinde faction, also called for disqualification of Shiv Sena MLAs by writing a letter to the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. Now, the big question is that after proving majority in this way, what will be the meaning of the Anti-defection law (It would be meaningless)? Keeping this in mind, when the matter was heard in the Supreme Court on July 11, the Chief Justice decided to constitute a separate bench to take a decision on it. This hearing will determine the condition and direction of the relationship between the Center and the states along with protecting the Democracy and Constitution of the country in the coming days. It is expected that the final verdict of the Supreme Court will show a new path to democracy and strengthen it so that no dictator can trample upon it. The first line of the Constitution of our country says – “We, the people of India”– which highlights the fact that the citizens of the country are the topmost priority. In such a situation, it should be expected that the impending decision of the Supreme Court regarding Maharashtra will prove to be a milestone for the future of the people of the country.

The author is General Secretary & Chief Spokesperson of Maharashtra Congress