The timing could not have been better. A more appropriate day could not have been chosen by the Supreme Court. On 26th day, 2019, 70th Anniversary of the adoption of Constitution of India, a bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Ashok Bushan and Sanjeev Khanna, directed conduct of floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on 27th Nov,2019.The Supreme Court’s intervention has led to resignation of Dy. Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in that order. Paving the way for Udhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena supremo, to become Chief Minister, with possibly Ajit Pawar as his Deputy (don’t rule it out, as rumblings have begun already) in another dispensation. Great.
Fadnavis claims that he expected Ajit Pawar to lead NCP with 54 MLAs to align with BJP to form the Government. And now that Ajit Pawar chose to resign, “It is obvious we do not have the numbers and hence I am resigning”. If BJP sought to align with NCP, Shiv Sena aligning with it is no big deal. Or Congress-NCP with Shiv Sena either. It’s all Pawar Play at work.
Now, the 288 members have taken oath as members of Assembly, “I, A.B., having been nominated as a candidate to fill a seat in the Legislative Assembly, do swear in the name of God that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established and that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.”
“True Faith and Allegiance to the Constitution of India”? Which Constitution are these ‘characters’ owing true faith and allegiance to? Is it the same Constitution our forefathers made for us, with Babasaheb Ambedkar as Chairman? The shameful shenanigans of all these politicians have made mincemeat of that solemn instrument. Of the three organs of the State viz. Judiciary, Legislature and Executive, it is universally acknowledged that Alexander Hamilton doctrine in his Federalist Paper No.78 of 1780s that Judiciary is the weakest of the three, is true. Hamilton wrote, “Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honours, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.”
Be it the Karnataka imbroglio, which went waking up the Supreme Court at midnight, to reverse the swearing in of B.S. Yeddyurappa, immediately after the 2019 elections, or the recent Maharashtra capers, the top Court had to step in to stop the degenerating political standards from descending further. The weakest link in the three pillars of Democracy, has had to, time and again, rise to the occasion to fill the breach, vacated by the other two for expediency.
BJP and Shiv Sena contested the 2019 elections together. They came back with a majority, as a combine, though with a dented return. The two were ‘natural allies in the Hindutva colours’ as a twitter feed put it. Yet, SS stood its ground to assert that it wanted a 50% share in the Ministry formation and in the Chief Ministership position on a 30 months’ rotational basis. BJP with a 50% excess number was in no mood to yield or relent an inch. They wanted the earlier 2014-2019 arrangement to be repeated with possibly a higher accommodation for SS in the central ministry.
SS was convinced that BJP was playing Big Brother and repeated yielding, may eat into their very existence. They were willing to play footsie with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and through them reach out to Indian National Congress. Modi baiters loved this proposition. Keeping BJP out at all costs, it could not become the oft quoted ‘Secular Alliance’ as SS had paraded always in BJP’s saffron a.k.a. communal clothing. But, your enemy’s enemy is my friend, they said, and willing to compromise on all ‘principles and ideologies for the sake of public interest to honour the voter’s need for a government’. In an interview, in 2012, to party mouthpiece Saamna, Balasaheb Thackeray said Sonia was a foreigner. “What love will she have for this country and what is her contribution here,” he asked. “You see what is going on in the country. There is controversy over the Army chief’s age and the matter is in court. Whose reputation is in jeopardy? There is no question of Sonia’s reputation as she is a foreigner,” he said. On Rahul Gandhi, he said, “He was born yesterday and wants to be prime minister today. Is the PM’s post up for auction?” The atmosphere in the country was polluted by Congress, he said. Thackeray, who celebrated his 86th birthday on January 23, when asked the “secret” of his good health, said, “If I reveal my secret, all these Congressmen will emulate it.” No wonder Sonia and Rahul chose to keep off the swearing ceremony. Touche!
BJP was not taking things lying down. They went behind the scenes and played their conspiratorial cards to a nicety and lured Ajit Pawar (whom they had branded as the most corrupt politician in the whole nation) into governance, tapping into his personal scores to settle with the Pawar family, as Sharad Pawar was angling to promote his daughter Supriya Sule. It was all power, pelf, property, in politics to the fore. No scruples, values, morals, holding any of the parties or candidates back, in their efforts to hobnob with each other, not even sure, who was in bed with who, and which principle/ideology they were forsaking for now, in ‘public interest’. Shameful disdain for democracy, from each of our representatives. In every other party.
Let us be clear and honest to ourselves. Politics of today knows no morals or values. They are all in it for power. Power subsumes and sublimates every other tenet in politics. To grab power, anything goes. It would be utter naïveté on our part to expect these politicians to behave or practice morality as our representatives. The day and moment our vote is cast, our influence and sway over them ceased. We become bystanders. If we are not to be backstabbed and feel deprived, we ought to be aware of the practical reality that we voted in our representative so that they may make hay as they chose to. Surely, it would be too much to expect them to honour the mandate, as We The People, returned in the hustings. Why should they care? Playing politics is the only credo and ultimate value.
While embracing pragmatic realism, we can console ourselves with this prescient, last and parting speech to the Constituent Assembly, in which Babasaheb Ambedkar poured out his heart “…however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it happen to be a good lot….The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”
Nanabhoy Ardeshir Palkhivala worried 30 years ago, “The quality of our public life has reached its nadir. Politics has become tattered and tainted with crime. India today is a living example of the fact that cynicism corrupts and absolute cynicism corrupts absolutely. The greatest shortage in India today is of that rare commodity-character. What distresses me the most in India is the total absence of character. What disturbs me is not the corruption, the misconduct, the degradation; what distresses me is the public apathy and acceptance of them as facts of life.” Who then is to blame for the lack of character in these ‘characters’ in the despicable dance of democracy? We get the politicians we deserve.
(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)