By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, November 30, 2019: “Opportunism has shaken the confidence of People in Politics. Opportunists with no principles rein in politics of our country”. This is what Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya – the most significant ideologue of the contemporary Hindutva movement, had said in ‘Integral Humanism’.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which has been ruling India since 2014 swears by the life and work of Pandit Upadhayaya and yet indulges in opportunistic politics. This is quite evident going by the latest development in the formation of government in Maharashtra.

In politics and government, lying and then justifying it through the ends vs. means philosophy of behavior is a favorite past time. In politics winning is everything, all else is secondary to it. The primary aim is to capture power by hook or crook through political manoeuvres. The dangerous dogma that the end entirely justifies the means pervades politics in India like never before.

Take the latest case of Maharashtra. The elections to the 288-seat state assembly saw the votes getting split into four ways. Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats and its long-time ally, Shiv Sena, with 56 seats. The two main opposition parties – the regional Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress – bagged less than 100 seats between them.

In the absence of clear mandate to a single party, the country saw a high volt political drama clearly exposing unprincipled and unethical political practices by the parties. Though the pre-poll alliance partners, BJP and Shiv Sena had a comfortable majority in the House, both the parties fell out on the choice of chief minister and other issues.

Then the NCP leader Shard Pawar claimed that the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance endorsed Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister candidate. The BJP, however, swiftly moved and stitched up an alliance with a rival in an early morning political coup and on last Saturday morning, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as chief minister with NCP’s Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister.

But Fadnavis and Pawar had to resign after being in power for just 72 hours. Their shameful exit followed the Supreme Court’s order to take a vote of confidence on Wednesday.

The slogan ‘na khaunga na khane doonga’ is no more relevant for BJP anymore. In the run up to Maharashtra Assembly polls, BJP had described NCP as the ‘nationalist corrupt party’ and lambasted Ajit Pawar as the epitome of corruption. Fadnavis himself led the attack by raising questions over the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam and the co-operative bank scam.

And yet, BJP in its fervent bid to retain power in Maharashtra plotted with Ajit Pawar to form the government which however, could not last even three days. Political alliances breaking up after elections are not uncommon. But the way the BJP tried to split an influential political family, attempted to poach legislators from opposition parties to cobble together required strength to run the government smacked of politics of opportunism.

On the other hand, ideological opponents NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress formed the alliance in Maharashtra to form the government making it the most inconceivable alliance of contradictions. After all, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends; only permanent interests in politics.

In a multiparty parliamentary democracy like India, coalitions have become almost an inevitable reality after the Congress lost majority in eight and failed to form the government in seven out of the 16 States that went to polls in 1967. Thus began the era of common minimum programmes and coalition governments. This was accompanied with another development – the phenomenon of large scale political migrations.

During 1967-71, there were 142 defections in Parliament and 1969 defections in State Assemblies across the country. Thirty-two governments collapsed and 212 defectors were rewarded with ministerial positions. Haryana was the first State where a Congress ministry was toppled. The Bhagwat Dayal ministry was defeated in the Assembly when its nominee for speakership lost out to another candidate. Congress dissidents defected to form a new party called the Haryana Congress, entered into an alliance with the opposition and formed a new government under the Chief Ministership of Rao Birender Singh (also a Congress defector).

Pre-poll alliances function as a single consolidated unit and the partners do not contest elections against each other. These alliances’ breaking up after elections is not uncommon. However, post-election alliances to gain power are often time consuming, which was once again proved in case of Maharashtra.

Democracy is not just about making choices; it is about making ‘informed choices’. The alliance of two or more parties and the common manifesto set by them is something which a voter considers before casting the vote. And yet, soon after the elections are over, the parties indulge in sheer opportunistic politics by aligning with the rival party in their bid for power.

All this could not have been possible had the cases of coalition been covered under the legal scheme of anti-defection. This is how, the real object and purpose of the 10th Schedule gets defeated.

Political parties since coalition era are not yet mature or committed enough to the requirements of parliamentary democracy. Tolerance, understanding, consultation and compromise for the sake of democracy can only ensure good governance.

Farmers form a key part of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance released earlier on Thursday, which said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government would waive off their loans.

The steps listed in the CMP to benefit farmers include immediate assistance to those suffering due to premature rains and floods, an immediate loan waiver, revision of the crop insurance scheme to ensure immediate compensation to farmers who have lost their crops.

Now the real challenge before the new alliance is to implement the CMP in right earnest. Will Uddhav Thackeray led coalition government succeed remains a multi-million rupee question?

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