The BJP has come to power in Uttar Pradesh after 15 years. If you look at it from this perspective: Out of five assembly elections held, the Congress won three states though it was not able to form the government in two, and the BJP won in two.
The BJP has been reduced to three seats in Punjab, which does not reflect well on the national image of the party. Even though in the numbers game, the Congress had the upper hand in both Manipur and Goa, political manoeuvring and defection saw the BJP snatch power in these states. The victory in UP has not reflected a pan-India image for the BJP or Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the North-East, east and south are still out of their reach to a large extent. The support base among the minorities, especially Muslims, is still fragile. This is obvious from the fact that not a single seat was given to a Muslim by the BJP.
The present approach of the BJP seems to be to stifle the Opposition. The BJP, by forming the governments in Goa and Manipur, is in violation of the anti-defection law and the time-tested conventions of the Constitution, whereby the party with the single-largest number should have been invited first. The denial of such an opportunity will negate the spirit of democracy.
We may recall that the MM Punchhi Commission also enumerated what it called “constitutional conventions” to be followed by the governor in the case of a hung assembly. The Punchhi commission prescribed:
*The party or combination of parties which command the widest support in the legislative assembly should be called upon to form the government.
*If there is a pre-poll alliance or coalition, it should be treated as one political party and if such coalition obtains a majority, the leader of such coalition shall be called by the governor to form the government.
*In case no party or pre-poll coalition has a clear majority, the governor should select the chief minister in the order of preference indicated here — (a) the group of parties which had a pre-poll alliance commanding the largest number; (b) the largest single party staking claim to form the government with the support of others; (c) a post-electoral coalition with all partners joining the government; (d) a post-electoral alliance with some parties joining the government and the remaining including independents supporting the government from outside.
As regards the weight of “constitutional convention”, a seven-judge bench, in Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs Union of India, 1993, held that “there is no distinction between the ‘constitutional law’ and an established ‘constitutional convention’ and both are binding in the field of their operation. Once it is established to the satisfaction of the court that a particular convention exists and is operating then it becomes a part of the ‘constitutional law’ of the land and can be enforced in the like manner”.
In the euphoria of the historic win by the BJP, political realities cannot be overlooked. The disruptive politics of the kind structured by the BJP can be only a seasonal wave. The BJP exploited the negative trend of anti-Yadav and anti-Jadav sentiments.
The result may have led to the defeat of identity politics in UP and in the turmoil the Congress has become the victim. But the Congress will always remain the main challenger to identity politics.
Tsunamis are not uncommon in the political history of India. When any political outfit emerges, euphoria is spread that the Opposition is vanquished and the victors then feel that this is permanent.
The nation has seen tsunami politics right from 1951. In 1971, we saw this when the Janata Party triumphed in the backdrop of the Emergency.
In 1977, in the wake of the Emergency the Janata Party won 352 of 425 in Uttar Pradesh and garnered 47.8% votes. In 1980, the BJP lost the election in UP and the Congress won by securing 309 seats with a vote share of 39.6% as against the BJP’s vote share of 39.7% this time in UP. Since 1980, UP was ruled by the Congress in the first decade, followed by the BJP’s rise.
In 1977, the Janata Party thought that India had become Congress-mukt and consequently, power was abused by removing Indira Gandhi’s membership in the Lok Sabha. But Indira Gandhi bounced back in the Chikmagalur by-election to the Lok Sabha in 1978. The Congress fought back and came to power in 1980 with a majority within three years of the landslide victory of the Janata Party.
In 2004, the NDA government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the election and consequently the UPA came back to power. In 2012, the BJP got just 47 seats in the UP assembly election. In 2007, the BSP won the assembly polls in UP, and in Punjab the Congress came to power after a gap of 10 years. In 2014, the BJP won 72 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. Nothing is permanent in the game of politics, and no formation can be written off as past examples show.
M Veerappa Moily is an MP and former law minister
The views expressed are personal