The Maharashtra government crisis has become disastrous with more disasters to follow. The BJP was the single-largest party with 105 MLAs and the Shiv Sena had 56.
This was a clear majority beyond the required 144 cut-off in the Maharashtra Assembly.
The seats in its kitty
The BJP's duty was to form a government irrespective of whether it had a secret pre-election power-sharing agreement with the Sena to share the CM's office on a rotational basis for two-and-a-half years.
As long as they were allies with the Sangh Parivar in power, the BJP should have let the Shiv Sena have the CM's post for five years. But the BJP wanted direct, not just coalition, power in Maharashtra. The reason for this is obvious. The BJP does not have a clear majority in most of the states it claims to rule. It has two seats out of 60 seats in Meghalaya, 53 out of 243 seats in Bihar, had 25 out of 87 seats in Jammu and Kashmir and 13 out of 40 seats in Goa.
The BJP should have let the Shiv Sena have the CM's post for five years. (Photo: Reuters)
If we look at the other states, it is clear that it has no seats in Sikkim, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu, four out of 175 seats in Andhra Pradesh, five out of 119 seats in Telangana, one out of 140 seats in Kerala, three out of 117 seats in Punjab, three out of 294 seats in West Bengal, four out of 70 seats in Delhi, 10 out of 147 seats in Odisha, 12 out of 60 seats in Nagaland. These figures show that out 4,139 MLA seats in the country, the BJP has 1,516 seats from which 950 MLAs come from the six states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka. It claims to have captured most of the states electorally when the democratic credit belongs to its NDA allies.
Thus, the BJP wants to be seen to reign and rule in more states. It follows that it could not have given up the rule of Maharashtra in this 'Game of Thrones' in Mumbai, without ruling the country's third-largest state, which also houses the country's commercial capital. It has dawned on the BJP that the NDA is a husk which it flaunts dishonestly as a symbol of its success. Its partners remain, because as long as they are in the NDA, the BJP has the much-needed muscle and money power, and arm-twisting ability, to help these non-BJP NDA allies when they are in trouble.
We have seen the BJP's arm-twisting power in Arunachal, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, which it is prepared to use for its so-called partners. This kind of money and muscle is not within the gift of coalition partners. Crores are required to buy MLAs, transport them by plane to five-star locations, offer perks and posts to their relatives and friends, and largesse to its funders by way of mining leases, government contracts and favours in the name of the 'liberal' economy.
President's Rule ruse
President's Rule has been the bane of India's Constitution. It does not matter if Indira Gandhi invented its abuse in the l960s to get rid of Opposition governments. We are concerned with the here and now. Let us start with the year 2014, when the BJP became the dominant government at the Centre.
We have to recall the horrifying events of Arunachal Pradesh which did not just lead to farcical stances by the BJP in the Supreme Court, but led a former minister committing suicide while blaming the BJP. In Uttarakhand, the High Court struck down the President's Rule as unconstitutional.
In Karnataka, after the havoc, the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of the people BJP had importuned. The water is greatly muddied by the BJP's greatest defence that the Congress did the same thing decades ago. Does this make what the BJP is doing right and immunise them from exposure?
In my view, President's Rule can never be used for this kind of situation even its use has occurred on over 100 occasions. The reason is simple. A hung election produces exactly the same situation at the Centre. The President cannot invoke President's Rule to resolve the situation at the Centre. Parliament cannot be kept in suspended animation.
Minority government's rule
A government has to be sworn in. If this can happen at the Centre, do we have a lesser parliamentary democracy in the states? President's Rule under Article 356 arises when "The Government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of Constitution." In the same situation of a hung Parliament at the Centre, no President's Rule can be imposed.
To interpret hung Parliaments as an instance for failure of governance in the states, but not the Centre, short circuits both federalism and democracy. President's Rule means the Centre rules (anti-federal) and the Assembly is suspended or abolished (anti-democracy). We must re-interpret President Rule more narrowly.
World over, minority government's exist under the parliamentary system. This is also true for India. What has made India different is its invention of a 'confidence vote' as a pre-requisite to office. Effectively, this means that a minority government must prove itself a majority government at its inception. This means it must use money, muscle, defection and inducements no sooner than it is born.
There have been 101 tainted confidence motions in state Assemblies over 50 years. What a disaster. In Maharashtra, President's Rule must be lifted and a government sworn in without insisting on a confidence vote and without defections.