The political drama which has been at play in Maharashtra in the last few days is not unfamiliar to Indian politics. Often, we see such high-voltage political drama in states in which the Opposition tries to wrest power from the hands of the ruling party.
Not long ago, a similar incident unfolded in Madhya Pradesh in March 2020. The Kamal Nath government collapsed after a group of 23 rebel Congress MLAs, led by Jyotiraditya Scindia, resigned from the party. Subsequently, Kamal Nath had to resign as his government was reduced to a minority. The beneficiary – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Almost 10 months earlier, in July 2019, Kumaraswamy government, a coalition between the Janata Dal Secular and Congress, lost the trust vote in Karnataka Assembly. His government lost its majority after three JDS MLAs and 13 from the Congress resigned from the Assembly. The dramatic pictures of BJP leader BS Yediyurappa sleeping on the floor at night will remain in the memories of people as such a way of protest is rare in politics. Yediyurappa, then Karnataka BJP chief, held a night-long protest in the Assembly demanding a floor test.
Uttarakhand, Goa, and so on – the list of such states is a long one that saw governments collapse because power-hungry MLAs revolted against their own leadership.
Rebel MLAs also have some rhyme and reason for breaking away but it is also a failure of Indian democracy. In many cases the party losing power cries foul and accuses the opposition of using money power to lure away the MLAs and circumvent the Anti-Defection Law.
The power tussle in Maharashtra is heading towards floor test in the Assembly.
It would be politically imprudent to think that Shiv Sena chief and CM Uddhav Thackeray will accept his defeat and tender his resignation without a slugfest till the last round.
However, rebel Shiv Sena MLA from Kopri-Pachpakhadi constituency and Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde, who is leading the rebel faction of the party, has a clear advantage as over 37 MLAs are in his favour. A breakaway faction needs to have one-third of the legislators on its side to not fall foul of the Anti-Defection Law.
Shiv Sena and Uddhav supporters are hoping that when the rebel MLAs will return to Mumbai from Guwahati, where they are camping in a hotel, their hearts might change.
Once the action moves towards a trust vote, more action-packed episodes are expected. Maharashtra politics strongman and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar showed his support to Thackeray.
The next few days will reveal the winner of one more power game in Indian politics.
If BJP-led by Devendra Fadnavis forms government banking on Shinde, it may again prove to be a fragile one because just a few months ago the saffron party was left red-faced. A few weeks after the Assembly elections, Fadnavis took oath as CM with the support of NCP Number 2 leader Ajit Pawar on November 23, 2019, and he had to resign on November 26, 2019. But a few days later, Ajit Pawar decided to return to his uncle Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
Such incidents in the game of power manifest nothing but the grey side of our democracy and rule of law.