Only that can dilute if not settle the putrid political mess in Maharashtra. The sooner a House session is called, the better
The political ambush in Maharashtra — for nothing else can describe the opportunistic division of the power pie among electoral rivals, the BJP and a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) breakaway — needs to be rectified by an immediate constitution of the House. That alone can set off processes leading to a floor test, all of which are time-taking but can restore order. Now that a new Government has been sworn in by the Governor, it is incumbent upon him to call a House session, which will then elect a pro-tem Speaker. He will administer the oath to MLAs, conduct the election of the full-time Speaker, which in itself will show how the numbers are stacked, and then let the latter handle the floor test. Although the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom considers the technical aspects of the plea, that is if the letters of support by BJP and NCP MLAs to the Governor were indeed genuine or not, the fact is it must really hasten conditions required for a floor test. Letters now mean little. Yes, it must consider the delicacies of the case but cannot disregard how the Opposition front of the Congress, official NCP and Sena have also submitted a list of 154 MLAs to the Governor and court as counter-claimants to power. All the more reason that a House session and floor test are made possible at the earliest to legitimise claims. Considering the muddied waters since daybreak Saturday, with each side claiming defections and overlapping loyalists, the top court is expected to do everything right to restore public confidence in and uphold democratic principles. Otherwise, it will be perceived to have allowed the cloak and dagger feudalism that has come to justify itself as Constitutional practice. November 30, by which the Governor wants the floor test, is just four days away. So a breather has anyway been got. Also, the top court would recall that in the Karnataka scenario, it had moved in swiftly, at the midnight hour, to order such a session. BS Yediyurappa couldn’t pile up numbers in a subsequent floor test.
Now that a new Government has been sworn in, there is no ground for dilly-dallying. BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis says he has support of 170 MLAs, 105 MLAs of his own, all 54 MLAs from the NCP and 11 Independents and smaller parties. The Congress with 44, the NCP (still claimed by Sharad Pawar as his and not of his nephew and deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar) at 54 and Shiv Sena, now no longer a BJP ally, with 56 seats and some Independents have furnished a list of 162. Both sides have common support and cross the halfway mark of 144. There are bizarre stories of resort politics, with each camp shepherding its legislators from inducements by competitors, as if they are a gullible lot who do not have a mind of their own to decide or are terrorised into the barracks. Fact is, they are following established practice to treat their seats as assets and sell them to the highest bidder. Undoubtedly democracy has been made a mockery of far too many times in this country to become an ugly truth. And it sadly continues as part of competitive point-scoring and whataboutery. What gives our politicians the right to emulate indecorous examples, simply because they had been executed by their rival at some point in time and continue to be a precedent? Meanwhile, the parading games have started. The BJP, which has made anti-corruption the credo of its Congress-mukt Bharat, has not only bought over the tainted Ajit Pawar but decided to hide his black book. Reports now indicate that investigation in nine cases related to the Rs 70,000 crore Maharashtra irrigation scam was closed on Monday, two days after Ajit Pawar was sworn in. What a travesty considering the first thing that Fadnavis did when he became the Chief Minister in 2014 was to register these same cases. Of course, the BJP has made brazenness the new normal, not bothered about perceptions. But it is still difficult to believe why the original NCP chief Sharad Pawar is tepid in handling the consequences of a palace coup? For starters, there has been no action against Ajit Pawar beyond his suspension as a legislature party leader. There has been no talk of expulsion. Does the old Maratha strongman fear that expulsion would also lead to an exodus of his own MLAs in large numbers? Yet Ajit Pawar claims that NCP still has one leader and that is senior Pawar. So one wonders how the NCP chief, whose status has been hugely compromised by the assumption that he is in the loop of things, is still willing to be fall guy. Speculation that his nephew doesn’t have so much as a dare to stand against him and that his daughter would ultimately find a place in the Union Cabinet seems to be growing. If all of this is proven, it will be the death of democracy as we know it.