The way the month-long political impasse in Madhya Pradesh concluded with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan taking oath as the 4th term chief minister, points out to a deeper concern of people’s mandate of democracy as role of BJP as a opposition party seemed to be dubious in breaking other parties to obtain a legislative majority regardless of the principle of democracy. The political quandary and change of power in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra has proved the pro-active role of the opposition party as an unprincipled chaser of power, regardless of the democratic values, election manifestos and people’s mandate. The government formation in Madhya Pradesh by the opposition party within 15 months of existing government has been assumed to be an invasion on political stability, people’s mandate and escapism from anti-defection law as enriched in Indian constitution under the Articles 102 (2) and 191 (2). Likewise, acquiring chief ministerial position of Maharashtra by allying Congress-NCP and Shiva Sena seemed to be like merging of north and south poles with the purpose of dethroning BJP from power against the people’s mandate. Similarly, the dethroning of Congress-JDS coalition Karnataka government within 14 months by rebel MLAs have been another invasion on political stability and people’s mandate in democracy. Here, this piece of writing outlined a glimpse on, how did strong and an effective opposition party act as power chaser rather than fulfill its responsibility in ensuring checks and balance of democracy?
Destabilizing the government leads to trust-deficiency among the people
In Madhya Pradesh, what we have witnessed in the recent past is the collapse of political ideologies and breach of trust among the voters as politics have become a career of choice by persons with vested interests. The role of the opposition party appeared as a catalyst for manipulating the legislators of government-side taking advantages of internal clash within the Congress so as to destabilize the government as the BJP won 109 seats in the state polls, but was seven short of the simple majority mark of 116 in the 230-member Assembly. The change of power in the state within 15 months could be accomplished as BJP being as strong and an effective opposition quickly acted as a power chaser in democracy rather than practical criticizer of the government policies. On the other hand, discontent and differences of the 22 legislators within Congress as well as high political expectation of Madhya Pradesh Congress leader, namely Jyotiraditya Scindia added fuel to the fire as resignations the these MLAs proved a turning point to the BJP. Hence, democracy with strong opposition does not indicate a good sign of a healthy and smooth functioning of governance as sometime opposition parties cross their professional ethics by applying horse trading and compromising ideologies and people’s mandate in order to triumph the power struggle. For the last few years, there have been a number of incidences of physical captives of legislators by forcing them into the resort and hotels outside the state restricting proper communication with the rest of the world leads to raise a number of questions of a healthy democracy. In order to chase the power by the opposition party in Madhya Pradesh, there have been a number of efforts made towards making a distance between the existing government and the rebelled MLAs of the Congress so as to prevent from sorting out the differences of these MLAs from the government. An effective opposition in democracy has always been mandated as a shadow or parallel government to have a check and balance of the governance. But, the strong opposition in Madhya Pradesh acted as a power chaser resulting in the government formation with Shivraj Singh Chauhan as chief minister for the fourth term disrespecting to the people’s mandate. Trust deficiencies among the voters will remain intact as the fate of BJP’s government would be decided on the basis of by-poll verdict in the coming days. Despite of the majority mark existed with Congress-JDS, the political instability and change of power in Karnataka within 14 months will prove hurdles in the progress and development of the state along with creation of trust deficiencies among the voters. Another example of political instability and change of power appeared into Maharashtra politics in 2019, where both Congress and BJP demonstrated their political aspiration to be only on ruling side by compromising their core ideologies and people’s mandate. Therefore, the role of opposition parties needs to be redefined and constitutionally observed so as to prevent them from any un-democratic exercise as people’s mandate always deserves to be respected while forming the government.
Loopholes in Anti defection law help opposition parties destabilize the government
In order to restrict the individual political interest and anti-party activities, the legal instrument as a form of anti defection law has been effective since 1985 with the purposes of preserving the government as well as to prevent the changing behavior of legislators from one political party to another after becoming a legislator from any party. Anti-Defection law proved itself as milestone in stabilizing the governance for the last three decades as it prevents the corruption and horse trading in parliament or state legislative houses., Exceptionally, the law allowed defections if it involved one-third members of legislators in case of a ‘split’ in a political party. Keeping these exceptional provisions enriched in Indian constitution in mind, the purposes of enactment of anti-defection law is diverted by the opposition parties breaking one-third members of the legislators or mass resignations of the rebel legislators.
For the last couple of years, the process of destabilizing the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka followed by change of powers within15 months had been constructed with the help of the existence of such loophole in anti-defection law as opposition parties always acts as a power chaser in democracy rather than creating public opinion against erroneous policies and programs of the incumbent government. Hence, a strong and an effective opposition sometime happens to be disastrous for political stability and people’s mandate as Indian democracy has been witnessing a number of political ups and down as well as frequent instability in governance and midterm election due to the existence of oppositions since 1967 as proper guidelines and constitutional obligations of role of opposition parties still remained a gray area in democracy.
Absence of justifications of 22 MLA’s resignations leads to trust deficiencies in politics
With 22 MLA’s resignations from the ruling party in Madhya Pradesh and followed by their immediate joining to the BJP with the purpose of destabilizing the existing government of Congress tempted a number of questions as resignations themselves floated full of political drama of one month. The resignations of these MLAs must be independent, voluntary and free from any kind of pressures. But, the political crisis in Madhya Pradesh emerged with 22 MLAs’ resignations assumed to be loyal to former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia who preferred to pursue his political future with BJP by gifting 22 MLAs to the BJP so as to destabilize 15 months old Kamalnath government. Though, Article 190 of the Indian Constitution empowers the speaker to conduct an independent inquiry about the resignation and has to satisfy him/herself that the resignation is voluntary and not under pressure. Therefore, the resignations of these MLAs need to be inquired independently as one month stay of MLAs in an isolated place outside Bhopal pointed out to the any pressure or conspiracy theory as resignations will lead to un-necessarily financial burden on the part of the public exchequer due to conducting by-election in the coming days.
The office of the speaker and the governor must be deployed as an immediate tribunal for such political crisis occurred on account of malpractice, horse-trading and loopholes in anti-defection law as both of authorities draw their power from constitution as an independent and apolitical institution. Therefore, such convention of appointment of a speaker from ruling political party must be re-examined in order to replace with the eminent and commonly trusted individual, perhaps like a retired Chief Justice or eminent jurist.
Dr. Ahmed Raza
Department of Public Administration
MANUU (a central university)
Gachibowli, Hyderabad, India