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Questions of legitimacy

Questions of legitimacy
In a significant development on March 14, the Supreme Court refused to stay the swearing in of Bharatiya Janata Party's Chief Ministerial candidate Manohar Parrikar and ordered a floor test in the Goa Legislative Assembly tomorrow. This decision comes at a time when Congress is desperately challenging the Goa Governor's decision to invite the BJP to form the government in the coastal state. Rewind to Sunday, and the people of India heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking of the emergence of a 'New India' in the wake of his party' stupendous win in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

There is, however, nothing new about the state of Indian politics as witnessed in the small states of Manipur and Goa. Even though the BJP was not the largest party in either state, they staked their claim for government formation. In Goa, especially, the people delivered a clear verdict against the BJP. The party won just 13 seats in the 40-strong Assembly, while its incumbent Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and five other ministers in his Cabinet lost in their respective constituencies. Isn't it evident that the electoral mandate went against the BJP? For the uninitiated, the Congress won 17 seats in the election.

Despite the circumstances, the Governor has invited the BJP to form the government with 21 out of 40 MLAs on their side, forcing the Congress into moving the Supreme Court with allegations of horse-trading. Even though it had the largest number of legislators, the Congress did not even submit a claim for government formation to the Governor. The bottom line is that the elections in Goa produced a hung Assembly. In the event of a hung Assembly, post-poll alliances will come to pass.

The party won just 13 seats in the 40-strong Assembly, while its incumbent Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and five other ministers in his Cabinet lost in their respective constituencies. Isn't it evident that the electoral mandate went against the BJP? For the uninitiated, the Congress won 17 seats in the election. Despite the circumstances, the Governor has invited the BJP to form the government with 21 out of 40 MLAs on their side, forcing the Congress into moving the Supreme Court with allegations of horse-trading. Even though it had the largest number of legislators, the Congress did not even submit a claim for government formation to the Governor. The bottom line is that the elections in Goa produced a hung Assembly. In the event of a hung Assembly, post-poll alliances will come to pass.

The BJP reportedly stitched an alliance, bringing in elected legislators from former ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, the Goa Forward Party (even though it had specifically fought on an anti-BJP plank), and two more independents on the condition that Parrikar would be the Chief Minister. Reports indicate that the party was quick off the blocks in reaching out to regional players in forming the government. The same cannot be said of the Congress, where its senior official in charge of Goa, Digvijay Singh, admitted that the party failed to garner the requisite support, despite a clear head start.

The Congress has complained of how the BJP overtook them in the race thanks to "money power". It is a claim often made by political parties which haven't managed to form a coalition in the event of a hung Assembly. Reports, however, indicate that the Congress legislators were left annoyed, more at their own party's high command than the BJP. Forget negotiations with potential allies; the party took too long to decide on its legislative leader. This is a clearly a failure of the party high command, who sent Singh, a known Gandhi family confidant, to oversee matters in Goa.

In Manipur, meanwhile, the Congress finished with 28 MLAs—three short of a simple majority—while the BJP was left with 21. The state Governor invited the BJP's Biren Singh to form the government with the support of the MLAs from other regional parties, besides independents. Once again, the Congress leadership was too late in staking a claim to form the government, despite an even greater head start. The BJP, meanwhile, was quick off the blocks and sent a delegation to in an attempt to woo smaller outfits even before the results were out, while the Congress leaders twiddled their thumbs. There were even

It is a claim often made by political parties which haven't managed to form a coalition in the event of a hung Assembly. Reports, however, indicate that the Congress legislators were left annoyed, more at their own party's high command than the BJP. Forget negotiations with potential allies; the party took too long to decide on its legislative leader. This is a clearly a failure of the party high command, who sent Singh, a known Gandhi family confidant, to oversee matters in Goa. In Manipur, meanwhile, the Congress finished with 28 MLAs—three short of a simple majority—while the BJP was left with 21. The state Governor invited the BJP's Biren Singh to form the government with the support of the MLAs from other regional parties, besides independents. Once again, the Congress leadership was too late in staking a claim to form the government, despite an even greater head start.

The BJP, meanwhile, was quick off the blocks and sent a delegation to in an attempt to woo smaller outfits even before the results were out, while the Congress leaders twiddled their thumbs. There were even rumours of the Central Industrial Reserve Force kidnapping an independent MLA to help the BJP. However, a bigger indictment of the Congress leadership comes in the form of rumours that several Congress legislators want to jump ship and join the BJP.

Parliament had passed the anti-defection law in 1985 to avoid such a scenario precisely. According to the Schedule X of the Constitution, a member can suffer disqualification under two circumstances: if the legislator "voluntarily gives up membership of a party" or votes (or abstains from voting) contrary to the directive issued by the party. The law was passed to prevent corruption in the legislature and strengthen our democracy. Instead, it has merely accorded greater power to party high commands in their bid to negotiate the process of government formation under the veil of secrecy, where a lot of shady wheeling and dealing takes place. Far from getting rid of defection, the law has concealed it. As recent events in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and now in Goa and Manipur indicate, the anti-defection law, allied with a pliant Governor actually helps the ruling party engineer defections. This is not merely restricted to a particular party in power, but the reality of our current system of electoral politics.

On the issue of passing

Far from getting rid of defection, the law has concealed it. As recent events in Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and now in Goa and Manipur indicate, the anti-defection law, allied with a pliant Governor actually helps the ruling party engineer defections. This is not merely restricted to a particular party in power, but the reality of our current system of electoral politics. On the issue of passing necessary legislation, too, the anti-defection law has become a serious hindrance. For example, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015, passed in Parliament is a piece of bad legislation. Individual MPs had raised grave concerns surrounding some of the provisions of this bill. Bound by the party whip, they had no choice but to fall in line, even though it's a regressive law.
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