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Tough Line

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With recommendation of President’s Rule in Maharashtra by Governor BS Koshyari, it would seem that the BJP plans to use the weight of political authority to get its way in the state, when allowing the ‘unholy’ alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress to unravel by itself would have been so much a more satisfying experience. The move has certainly spared Congress the embarrassment of supporting a Shiv Sena led government, at least for the time being. And any hopes that Koshyari may have had of peaceful semi-retirement in Mumbai’s Raj Bhawan will have been dashed!
While, in the earlier circumstances, the BJP would have received the people’s sympathy for having been cheated of its mandate, the narrative will now be that it has interfered in the due process of democratic functioning. The desperation of the other parties to overturn President’s Rule will actually work to forge greater unity among them and provide the much needed excuse, particularly to the Congress, to come together.
With the Shiv Sena having challenged the move in the Supreme Court, what would be the Union Government’s plea? It is being argued that the BJP was given an entire two weeks to form a government, against much shorter periods for the Shiv Sena and the NCP. At that point in time, however, it was considered a given that the pre-poll alliance of BJP and Shiv Sena would take over power in the state. Showing the numbers was not the issue, it was only a matter of convenience. Only when the Shiv Sena totally dropped out and the BJP stated it did not have a majority, did the can of worms open up. The clock began ticking and it is the job of the Governor to ensure the process does not descend to horse-trading and bribe-taking. That this also worried the smaller parties is also evident, given the fact that the MLAs were all shepherded away to safe houses – in the case of the Congress to a resort in Rajasthan!
The Supreme Court will be well within its rights to ask the Shiv Sena why – through its pre-poll deal with the BJP – it denied its ally the right to contest all the seats in the state, and then renege on the deal. It might not, but it should. Is such breach of faith acceptable in democracy, particularly as it betrays the people’s mandate? The BJP has the right to be angry and that, perhaps, has inspired it to take the hard line rather than wait it out.