Politicians have forgotten that the people come first
It is a relief that the governor of Maharashtra has asked Bharatiya Janata Party as the single largest party to show that it is willing and able to form a government. This invitation to the caretaker chief minister came on the 16th day after the assembly election results, just before the lack of a government would have led to the possibility of president’s rule in the state. It is not a desirable situation when the representatives chosen by the people think of their electorates last. The Maharashtra episode is far from being the only example of this phenomenon, but it is a particularly blatant one. Bargaining for the top spot or, as in this case, just ensuring it, is more important to politicians than the insecurity of the people. The BJP as the single largest party needs a coalition partner to obtain majority. Its disagreement with the Shiv Sena, its long-time ally, with each party accusing the other of lying about a 50-50 sharing of the chief minister’s chair — the Shiv Sena declares that the BJP promised this and the BJP says it did not — should not have been so prolonged. The people of Maharashtra did their job by voting; their leaders were not as prompt in doing theirs.
Whatever the bone of contention between alliance partners, both sides should have sorted it out between themselves without jeopardising the constitutional process of government formation. The people come first. Politicians in India have gradually forgotten this, at first disguising their priorities with pretty speeches about people’s choice and, more recently, treating politics like a game of their own, in which the people are used — for votes or, with promises or projections of group identity, as vote banks. Together with the people, policies suffer too, for long-term thinking becomes useless in the race for holding on to power at all costs. The Maharashtra drama underscores once again the irrelevance of ethics in Indian politics, even when the issue is of government formation. The BJP, which elbowed the single largest party away in Goa and Manipur to get into the respective governments there, baulked at the same job in Maharashtra as the largest party when unsure of its partner. The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, cheerfully held the BJP over a barrel. The governor’s invitation is a formal step; it has yet to be seen whether it ends the uncertainty in the state.