The toppling of yet another state government (Madhya Pradesh) by the BJP, with the clever management of a few disgruntled MLAs and the exploitation of loopholes in anti-defection laws of Constitution, shows the significant limitations of our Indian democracy. After tasting success in Goa and Karnataka, the BJP was able to seamlessly replicate its strategy in Madhya Pradesh.
It was almost a repeat of the events in Karnataka in Madhya Pradesh, as a few disgruntled MLAs were flown into state resorts, after which they submitted their resignations.
The Governor followed the Centre’s script and asked the beleaguered CM, Kamal Nath, to prove majority. The Speaker, as expected, ignored this directive, and delayed the decision on the MLA resignations. Then the scene got shifted to the Supreme Court with familiar arguments on the rights of the Governor, Speaker, CM and MLAs, and ultimately, the Court asked to prove the majority. The episode ended with Kamal Nath’s resignation, but the people of Madhya Pradesh are now left wondering what happened to their original electoral mandate.
Speakers & Governors End Up Becoming Political ‘Puppets’
But one cannot only blame the BJP, as in the case of Maharashtra, they were manoeuvred by the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, in spite of getting the largest number of seats. Even in Karnataka, H D Kumaraswamy, who had got less than 15 percent seats, could become chief minister before the BJP got its tricks right and dislodged him. In all these scenarios, the voters were helpless as politicians played with numbers, lures and money bags. The Constitution was taken for a ride as even the Supreme Court ended up becoming a player in this game of chess orchestrated by politicians.
Although speakers and governors are supposed to play a neutral constitutional role, they just end up becoming puppets of their political masters.
The true spirit of democracy can be realised only when the country’s constitutional framework is robust without scope for any ambiguity, and governments are formed according to people’s will and mandate. It is unfortunate that our Constitution is not able to stop horse-trading, with the switching of sides by MLAs making a mockery of our electoral democracy.
Suggestions on Constitutional Amendments For a ‘Unity Govt’
The 52nd constitutional amendment tried to prevent “Aya Ram and Gaya Ram” culture by automatically disqualifying any MLA if their party whip was not followed, and mandating at least two-thirds of MLAs to split a party for recognition. But the BJP could come with ‘Operation Kamala’ strategy to short circuit this amendment which was successfully pioneered by Yediyurappa in Karnataka, and recently repeated by Shivraj Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh.
It is about time that the current loopholes in the Constitution on government formation during hung verdicts are fixed.
It cannot be left to selfish politicians to misuse people’s mandate as just a numbers game.
At the same time, all the necessary measures should be incorporated, to avoid President’s Rule or fresh elections, which will be burden the people and administrative machinery.
Here are a few suggestions for consideration, to amend the Constitution on state government’s formation, if no party or pre-poll alliance get the required majority to form the government on their own:
- The term of the assembly be reduced from 5 to 3 years.
- The state to have ‘Unity Government’ with power shared between all major political parties based on the number of seats and votes won by them.
- The chief minister to be from the single largest party. The Cabinet to have 50 percent ministers from the largest party, and the remaining 50 percent to be filled by other political parties in proportion to the number of seats won by them. Any party should get minimum 10 percent of overall votes to get a minister-ship in the Cabinet.
- If any MLA resigns, he/she should not be allowed to contest elections or take any constitutional posts for a period of 5 years.
- If a no-confidence motion is passed, then the CM should step down, and his/her party should choose the successor.
Challenges to the Implementation of a ‘Unity Govt’
The above proposal may appear to be difficult to implement, however, they do provide a more inclusive and democratic path in the case of hung verdicts. It provides a mechanism for fair and proportionate representation of people’s verdict. It removes discretional powers of speakers and governors, and most importantly, eliminates illegal means of power-hungry politicians.
While it does throw up some challenges in terms of governance, the model requires collaboration across political parties, respecting the people’s mandate.
The above ‘unity government’ concept is not new, and it has been experimented with by many countries. Our constitutional and political experts can further debate over this and come up with an effective proposition, which should not only fix the current loopholes, but should become a reference model for the rest of the world.
(The author is a graduate from IISc, Bengaluru, and currently working for a global IT consulting company in the US. He frequently write blogs on Indian contemporary politics and can be reached on Twitter @nagaraj_pv. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)