As reported earlier, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the wee hours of Saturday, nearly a month after the Assembly election results were announced.
The ruling BJP in alliance with Shiv Sena had won a majority but the two long-standing allies fell apart on the question of sharing the plum chief minister’s post. After weeks of frantic parleys and the usual hiding of MLAs in hotels and resorts, and a spell of President’s Rule, a rather strange alliance between Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress party (NCP) was hammered out on November 22 night. But early morning, the BJP managed to coax Ajit Pawar of NCP to quit the Opposition alliance and join it in an alliance. By 8 o’clock in the morning, Governor BS Koshyari (former BJP chief minister of Uttarakhand) had sworn in the CM and Deputy CM (Ajit Pawar) in a secretive ceremony.
The haste, the secrecy, the fact that the Governor did not check whether Ajit Pawar really had the support of 54 NCP MLAs –- all point to another model of power grab that the BJP has perfected over the past few years. It has used bribery, threats, friendly Governors, horse-trading and a bagfull of dirty tricks to seize power in several states despite the people’s mandate going against it. T
The BJP-led Central government has also used various central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax Department, etc. to threaten and coerce Opposition parties and its leaders into submission. The party, which claimed that it would root out corruption and provide a different governance than the Congress, has apparently turned out to be much worse.
Here is how BJP has grabbed power in various states since 2014 without winning a majority:
Arunachal Pradesh (2014): BJP won 11 seats, Congress 42, People’s Party of Arunachal 5 and Independents 2. Over the course of two tumultuous years, the numbers changed to: BJP 48; Congress 1; PPA 9; Independents 2! Wholesale defections, a spell of President’s rule, death of an ex-CM, Supreme Court’s intervention, recall of a reluctant governor and four chief ministers later, the BJP finally grabbed power!
Jharkhand (2014): BJP won 35 seats and its ally All Jharkhand Students Union 5 seats in the 81-member Assembly. They were just short of the majority. So, again they won over some independent members and lured 6 out of 8 MLAs of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha to gain a majority.
Bihar: In the 2015 Assembly elections, the BJP got just 53 seats and 2 went to its allies in a 243 member House. It was a sound drubbing, delivered by the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Janata Dal (United)-Congress alliance which got a whopping mandate of 178 seats contesting as a pre-poll alliance. Yet, BJP broke up the alliance, lured away JD(U) and its chief minister Nitish Kumar, and in July 2017, formed a coalition government.
Goa (2017): BJP won just 13 of the 40 total seats. They cobbled up a coalition after results were announced with small local parties that had openly contested against them and formed a government even as the single largest party. The Congress had to sit in opposition with 17 seats.
Manipur (2017): BJP won 21 seats out of 60 while the Congress got 28. But the BJP won over two local parties National People’s Party and Naga People’s Front and a lone MLA from its ally Lok Janshakti Party to claim the government. The Governor Najma Heptullah, a former BJP MP, helped along by inviting the BJP-led alliance first to form the government.
Meghalaya (2018): BJP won just two seats in the 60-member Assembly. But it struck a post-poll alliance with National People’s Party to become part of the government. Again, a helpful Governor, Ganga Prasad, a former BJP MLC from Bihar, helped.
Karnataka: The power grab in Karnataka has two parts.
Part 1 - 2018: In the Assembly elections in 2018, BJP won 104 MLAs in a 224-member Assembly (elections to 2 seats were not held), missing out on the majority mark. But the former Gujarat BJP MLA Vajubhai Vala, in his new role as Governor of the state, invited BJP leader BS Yediyurappa to form the government, ignoring the larger Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance. Had the Supreme Court not intervened and called for a floor test the next day, BJP would have happily grabbed power. As it happened, Yediyurappa had to resign rather than face defeat on the floor of the House and a new Congress-JD(S) government was installed after a six-day long BJP rule.
Part 2 – 2019: In July 2019, presenting a new model for grabbing power, the BJP got 13 Congress, 3 JD (S) and one Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party MLA to resign from the Assembly bringing down the strength of the House and thereby getting a majority in it. The drama played out for many days as MLAs were shuttled from one resort to another. Ultimately, the Congress-JD (S) coalition government fell and the Yediyurappa-led BJP regained power. The rebel MLAs were disqualified and are now seeking re-election in the bypolls. If they lose, the whole situation will go back to square one.
Haryana (2019): In the recently held Assembly elections, the incumbent BJP government led by Manohar Lal Khattar lost its majority, getting 40 seats in the 90-member House. It lured the new Jananayak Janata Party into a post-poll tie-up even though JJP had severely attacked the BJP in its election campaign. JJP leader Dushyant Chautala was made deputy chief minister and BJP was back in power.
Although the BJP claims that it provides stable governments, in many of these states the BJP-led or BJP-participating governments are castles built on sand. In Karnataka, for instance, bypoll results might upturn the new BJP government. In Maharashtra, the newly sworn in government of two members will need to face a floor test and it is unlikely that they will win it. Of course, BJP hopes to somehow wean away some MLAs to join them – or they can adopt the Karnataka model to get them disqualified. Whatever be the case – these sand castles are bound to crumble sooner than later.