Maharashtra Government formation: Shameless exhibition of greed for power

The mid-night drama of installing a BJP-led government in Maharashtra and the subsequent developments including observations and directions of the Supreme Court on the issue have brought to the fore certain aspects signifying the extent of degeneration bourgeois parliamentary democracy has undergone. All discerning countrymen are aware that in the last assembly election in Maharashtra, two combinations were in the fray. One was the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance which had been ruling the country over the past 10 years and the other was the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine seeking to regain power. But then based on a demand of sharing of chief ministership on 50:50 basis, the Shiv Sena broke away from the ruling combination and instead began hectic parleys to form a government led by it with the support of the NCP and the Congress, hitherto arch rivals  in  bourgeois power politics. But in absence of any party having due numbers to stake claim singly  for government formation even after 15 days of publication of election results, President’s rule was imposed on the state.

The midnight coup

But when chances of installation of a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government had brightened, Devendra Fadnavis the erstwhile BJP chief minister accompanied by, to the shocked disbelief of many, Ajit Pawar, an NCP leader, reached the Maharashtra governor, in the wee hours of 23 November, after waking him up from sleep at midnight and staked claim for forming government. The need for cabinet approval to revoke President’s rule was bypassed by invoking a special provision of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, which gives the prime minister special power to do so. The BJP prime minister exercised the power immediately and then the President too brooked no delay in signing the proclamation for revocation and sending it back to the governor. Consequently, President’s rule was revoked at 5:47 am and the swearing in began at 7:50 am. Not only was Devendra Fadnavis back as chief minister, but NCP leader Ajit Pawar stunned nearly everyone by joining the BJP leader as his deputy. At 8:40 am, the prime minister had tweeted his congratulations to Fadnavis. All this was done overnight to enable the swearing-in to be held at that earliest possible hour. But, then why was this orchestrated backstage drama?

It was evident that the BJP leaders were in a tearing hurry to form a backdoor ministry with the governor in tow so as to stall the new anti-BJP alliance from holding the reins. Seeking to woo Ajit Pawar into the BJP camp at any cost was evident when, in the immediate aftermath of the swearing in ceremony, a long pending mega corruption charge against him was withdrawn. But then the role of the governor came in for sharp criticism from almost all quarters, the jurists, constitution experts, media columnists and of course the democratic-minded right-thinking people. They asked how could the governor ‘believe’ in the claimed majority of the Fadnavis-Ajit duo simply based on a uncaptioned list containing signatures of claimed “loyal’ MLAs? Expectedly, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress moved the Supreme Court submitting that “the Hon’ble Governor has acted in a partisan manner and has made a mockery of the high office of the Governor.” The Supreme Court responded positively to their petition and on 26 November ordered the midnight government to prove its majority on the floor of the House by 5pm of 27 November. Sensing inability to cobble up requisite numbers within the stipulated period, Fadnavis resigned within 80 hours of taking oath. The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combination who had sequestered their MLAs to luxury hotels across Mumbai to protect them from any attempts at poaching, paraded 162 of them (more than the magic number what was needed to form a government) in front of the media at a plush hotel in Mumbai. Ajit Pawar nimbly returned to the NCP fold. Finally, a government of the combination headed by the Shiv Sena supremo assumed office. For the time being, the BJP failed to engineer defection in the newly formed combination seemingly with lure of pelf and power, unlike what they could do successfully in Manipur, Sikkim, Goa and Karnataka.

Power matters—nothing else

First of all, notwithstanding all manipulations in influencing election verdict, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance received a clear mandate. But then dishonouring the mandate, the Shiv Sena who shares the arch communal Hindutva ideology with the BJP and hitherto claimed to be an inalienable constituent of the Hindu communal Sangh Parivar, deserted its big brother ally just for grabbing the chair of chief minister. And for that, it did not hesitate to knock at the door of NCP-Congress camp whom it till the other day scorned as pseudo-secular. On the other hand, the NCP-Congress craving for a return to the throne did not hesitate to join hands with its ‘communal foe” under the garb of keeping the BJP out of power. Even the CPI (M), which has a lone MLA, said that to ensure preventing the BJP from returning to power, it has decided not to oppose formation of a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress.

Because, it is, after all, power that they all are interested in. All the hues of ideology, patriotism, nationalism, working for people’s development and so forth are sheer bunkums. Anytime, entering into any opportunistic tie-up with anybody is not forbidden in rotten bourgeois parliamentary democracy today.

 Congress’s tactics repeated in using the post of Governor

Secondly, what is seen of late that the chair of Governor is squarely abused to install a government that the ruling quarters want. While the legislators and even the President are elected, Governors are nominated and deemed to be the constitutional head of the state government in the federal structure of the Indian parliamentary system. But as any student of political science knows, the political system of a country is a superstructure of its economic base. The modern parliament and the bourgeois parliamentary system were introduced by the rising bourgeoisie during their fight against feudalism and monarchy to establish their own rule —albeit under the garb of people’s rule—through the bourgeois democratic revolution.  The bourgeoisie was then a progressive force for society to advance. So they pleaded for equality-liberty and fraternity, stood for individual freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of people – of course in the bourgeois sense— to choose their own government. They promoted a laissez faire economy with free competition between individual capitalists.

But with emergence of monopoly, aberrations of capitalist system in which exploitation of man by man took a new and, in fact, more ruthless form, began to surface and extended to bourgeois democracy as well.  As the days rolled by, capitalism beset with acute market crisis endemic of the system became decadent. In its trail bourgeois democracy, too, was plunged into degeneration. As a part of this degeneration, the rolling process of more centralization of political power has brought in its trail gradual departure from the basic prescripts of bourgeois parliamentarianism. A careful analysis of world history will bear eloquent testimony to this. Today, capitalism, following inexorable course of history, has turned moribund and decadent.  So bourgeois parliamentary system has been stripped of all its democratic principles and turned into a farce. Only a facade of that is maintained to dupe people with parliamentary illusion. In keeping with that, the much-trumpeted federal structure of Indian parliamentary system is also being systematically subverted. Liberal democratic approach and practices are more and more dispensed with. It is the capitalist state which decides, which political party or which combination of parties will be the best suited to serve the interest of the ruling bourgeois class at a given particular time of political scenario and then uses every possible means or machineries to get it anointed in power.

In this perspective only, the role of the governor is to be understood. Most of the governors are today not appointees on merit but are picked up based on their loyalty to the ruling party.  A person’s political stripes seldom vanish. So, these ‘selected’ governors turn out to be virtual stooges of the party in power. Earlier, the Congress, as the most trusted representative of the ruling monopolists, was the ruling party at the Centre. Now it is the BJP. Earlier the governors had never questioned the instructions of the Congress-led central government seeking recommendations for dismissal of state governments. Now, the governors are being used as instruments, more nakedly, for either dismissing a non-BJP government at the earliest opportunity or paving the way for putting a BJP government in power, no matter if that warrants flagrant violation of even the basics of democratic codes, norms and pracices.

Recap of the governor-induced regime changes in Congress rule

Since independence, Article 356 has been invoked 130 times to dislodge elected governments.  It was a Congress government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru which had sown the “murder of democracy” seed by guillotining Namboodiripad government Kerala in 1959. B Ramakrishna Rao, the then Kerala governor, acted as per directive of Nehru government. That seed has now grown into a thick weed. On 15 August 1984, the Indira Gandhi government used governor Ram Lal to dismiss the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh headed by NT Rama Rao. Rama Rao was then abroad for heart surgery. On his return, Rao herded his MLAs and sent them to Bangalore in luxury buses, a practice now adopted by many bourgeois political parties to insulate them from poaching. Then he went to the people’s court riding his ‘Chaitanya Ratham’. Public outcry forced the Centre to reinstate NTR government.  The Janata Party government headed by SR Bommai was dismissed by Rajiv Gandhi on 21 April 1989, through governor Pendekanti Venkatasubbaiah, who rejected Bommai’s written request for trial of strength in the assembly. In 2005, Jharkhand governor Syed Sibtey Razi, on the instructions of the then Congress-led central government, installed JMM leader Shibu Soren as the chief minister despite the BJP-led NDA claiming support of 41MLAs in the 81-member House. On being moved by the NDA, the Supreme Court followed the Bommai judgment and ordered a floor test. Soren lost. NDA’s Arjun Munda became chief minister.

In the same year of 2005, the assembly elections conducted in Bihar in February also threw up a fractured mandate with no party reaching the magic majority figure. The NDA had staked the claim of forming the government after asserting that it had the support of 115 MLAs by mid-April in the 243-seat assembly. Around a month and a half after that, Buta Singh, a Congressman and then governor of Bihar, wrote to the then Congress-led central government alleging that the legislators from the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) were being wooed by the NDA. Hence he recommended dissolution of the assembly on the pretext of preventing horse-trading. The Congress-led union cabinet met at midnight and accepted the Bihar Governor’s report, which was then faxed to the then President’s camp office in Moscow. President APJ Abdul Kalam approved the recommendation in two hours and the assembly was dissolved. Less than a year later, when the matter had reached Supreme Court, the governor came in for a rare reprimand. In some stern remarks, the then Chief Justice of India observed: “All canons of propriety were thrown to the wind …. Undue haste made by the governor smacks of mala fide intent… Clearly the governor has misled the Council of Ministers.”

The acts of governor Koshyari and the BJP-led central government in Maharashtra mirror the dark deeds of the previous Congress governments.

Ruling in S R Bommai vs. Union of India case

Pertinent in this regard is the verdict of the S R Bommai vs Union of India case pronounced in 1994. When his government was dismissed on 21 April 1989 under Article 356 of the Constitution and President’s Rule was imposed, S R Bommai first moved the Karnataka High Court who dismissed his writ petition. Then he went to the Supreme Court. On 11 March 1994, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court gave a significant ruling, which held that the power of the President to dismiss a State government is not absolute. The dissolution of legislative assembly should be resorted to only where it is found necessary for achieving the purposes of the Proclamation and with approval of both the houses of parliament. In a way, the verdict put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments under Article 356 by spelling out restrictions. But as described above, the essence of this ruling, both in intent and purpose, has been trampled underfoot many a times. This shows how the basic postulates of bourgeois democracy like honouring the verdict of the Supreme Court in regard to issues of correct application of the stipulations of the Constitution, considered so sacred and inviolable by the entire bourgeois circle the bourgeois political parties included, are merrily disobeyed.

Truth that is unveiled

What do all these prove? It proves that both the BJP and the Congress, two trusted political managers of the ruling monopolists, as well as the various other aspirant bourgeois outfits shifting camps just for remaining afloat in the corridors of power, sail in the same boat. So long we heard that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now it is found that even scramble for power is also riding on all kinds of unscrupulous, corrupt, immoral, despotic and even crooked means. Crave for absolute power has been stimulating grandiose delusions of immunity in the bourgeois politicians. This is only baring the decayed skeleton of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This is how, as we had said earlier on a number of occasions, bitter truth is concealed beneath glib eloquence of parliamentary democracy by the quarters of reaction. 

It is a fact that a large section of people ruthlessly oppressed and criminally cheated under capitalism-imperialism, not only in our country but in other countries, get frustrated with the sordid state of affairs marking the bourgeois parliamentary system today. This is so because they are swayed by an uncritical approach or failure to get into the depth of the problem and identify the root of the evils tumbling out every day with increasing virulence. What the suffering and despondent countrymen need to realize with conviction is that any political force or party that survives on this bourgeois parliamentary politics to serve the monopolists and maintain this capitalist system cannot behave otherwise. It is only exercise of conscious vigilance on the part of the countrymen and assertion of people’s power through intensification of class and mass struggles under correct revolutionary leadership that can to some extent restrain the ruling monopolists and their servitors from indulging in such misdeeds. Till the time capitalism is not overthrown by revolution, this task falls to all of us.

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