“The very object of the Xth Schedule is to prevent and discourage ‘floor-crossing’ and defections, which at one time had assumed alarming proportions. Whatever may be his personal predilections, a legislator elected on the ticket of a party is bound to support that party in case of a division or vote of confidence in the House, unless he is prepared to forgo his membership of the House. The Xth Schedule was designed precisely to counteract ‘horse-trading’. Except in the case of a split, a legislator has to support his party willy- nilly”. – Supreme Court of India, in S.R. Bommai vs Union of India case judgement on March 11, 1994
The unprecedented political drama is unfolding in Maharashtra. The perceived rebellion, which started with the cross-voting in Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls, is heading towards a vertical split in Shiv Sena with twists and turns. What are the reasons behind this uncertainty? What can be the possible outcomes? How to address the fundamental concern of constitutional morality expected in a democracy?
The day Shiv Sena decided to break the winning alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joined hands with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the fundamental ideological position had been compromised. The trilogy of anti-Congressism, Marathi Manoos (sons of the soil) and aggressive Hindutva posturing have been the hallmark of Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena. Right from the inception of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), it was clear that Congress-NCP combined had enforced their version of secularism on the belligerent Sena that was looking for the Chief Minister’s post at any cost. Taming the Sena, giving it the CM ship and taking all the benefits of the power which the people of Maharashtra did not mandate was the best possible scenario for both the Congress and the NCP. This prevalent perception that the NCP was the biggest beneficiary of this alliance and Sharad Pawar was the actual power holder was detrimental to the Sena on many counts. The blemish of anti-incumbency and allegations of corruption were falling on the Sena while NCP took the maximum share of fund allocations in the Government.
This tripartite combination has been a bundle of contradictions not just on an ideological basis but also in social equations that exist on the ground. Shiv Sena’s support base, especially in the bastion of Mumbai-Konkan, has not been complementary to that of Congress and NCP, as was the case with the BJP. The representatives connected in their respective constituencies could sense this bad chemistry.
The emergence of the dynastic leadership of Aaditya Thackeray, sidelining of the grassroot leaders, and the dubious role of loudmouth spokesperson Sanjay Raut did not help the party much. The rebellious MLAs have aired all these sentiments with different degrees of sensitivity.
The main reason for breaking the alliance with the BJP after getting the mandate for the coalition was the inability to get the benefits of power, as perceived by Shiv Sena. In the case of Congress-NCP, both core ideological issues and power benefits remained elusive. The sentiments about the inaccessibility of the Chief Minister were growing. He was seen as an inexperienced and inefficient administrator. Still, it is not the individual and family but the problematic alliance that has been the central issue that Uddhav Thackeray has refused to address; hence, the inevitable instability and chaos.
There can be various outcomes of this drama. No MLA would like to go for reelection; hence there will be efforts to continue with the same or alternate Government. Yes, this is realpolitik for power, and no political party can claim a high moral ground on this count. Yet, while analysing the developments in the public domain, we need to address the fundamental questions of the original mandate, promises to the voters and delivery on the ground. Simultaneously, there is a need to ponder over the constitutional questions of interpreting the mandate, defection and anti-defection and the need for a neutral arbiter of disputes concerning disqualification, which arise under the Tenth Schedule and flagged by the Election Commission and the Apex Court.