A four-day-old coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party collapsed in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after it failed to muster a majority.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis resigned in Mumbai, the state’s capital, hours after India’s top court ordered a floor test so that he could prove majority.
The latest twist in the state’s ongoing political drama is a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had backed Fadnavis’ candidacy for the top job as his party laid out its ambition to govern all of India’s states. The BJP found itself in a minority after its partner walked out of a coalition due to differences over power sharing.
The elections to Maharashtra assembly were held on October 21 and the results were declared on October 24. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance had secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats respectively in the 288-member assembly. The alliance of Congress and NCP won 44 and 54 seats respectively.
So how did the BJP find itself on the back foot? A look at the events over the past few days:
Why did the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis resign on Tuesday?
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tendered his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari hours after Ajit Pawar resigned as deputy chief minister, three days after their dramatic swearing-in ceremony on November 23. Explaining why he quit, Fadnavis said, “Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar decided to help us to form the government. After talking with him, we formed the government on that basis. Today, when the Supreme Court gave its order, Ajit Pawar met and told me that he was unable continue in the alliance. He tendered his resignation. Since he resigned, we do not have majority.”
What was the Supreme Court’s order regarding the joint petition by Shiv Sena, Nationalist Party and Congress seeking floor test at the earliest?
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered that the Maharashtra floor test be held within 24 hours on Wednesday through open ballot. The court said the floor test would be conducted by the pro-team speaker after all the legislative assembly members were sworn in by 5p. The court ordered the proceedings to be telecast live.
“In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse-trading, it becomes incumbent upon the court to act to protect the democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so,” the top court observed.
What was the reaction?
After the court order, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Even if the court gives us [just] 30 minutes, we will prove our majority. We are thankful to the Supreme Court. This proves that our judicial system is transparent. The Supreme Court has agreed on most of our demands because we were honest.”
Terming the court order for floor test as a slap on BJP-Ajit Pawar alliance, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the two of “hijacking the mandate”.
“Those who sought to avoid the floor test to rule by stealth and deception stand exposed,” Surjewala tweeted.
Why did the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress parade their legislators in front of the media on Monday?
As many as 162 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress assembled for a joint ‘parade’ at a luxury hotel in Mumbai and took oath not to fall prey to any inducements by the BJP. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Ashok Chavan were among those present. They said that since they had a joint strength of 162 MLAs, the Fadnavis government clearly lacked numbers and was “illegally occupying office”.
How did the NCP’s Ajit Pawar ally with the BJP and take oath as Deputy CM?
Ajit Pawar stunned the NCP by engineering an alliance and a midnight coup with the BJP which saw Fadnavis’ return to power. In a series of secretive manoeuvres, President’s Rule was revoked at 5.47am on November 23 and, by 8am, Fadnavis and Pawar were sworn in. Ajit Pawar led a faction of his party to unite with BJP and form the government in the state. The dramatic turn of events after Ajit Pawar’s revolt against uncle Sharad Pawar echoed in Parliament with Congress and other opposition members creating a ruckus over it. Sharad Pawar announced that Ajit’s decision to support BJP was his own and was not endorsed by the party. Ajit was removed as NCP’s Parliamentary Party Leader.
What led to the split between one-time allies BJP and Shiv Sena?
The BJP and Shiv Sena had fought Maharashtra assembly election as an alliance but parted ways after the results were announced over sharing the chief ministerial post. Shiv Sena wanted a guarantee of 50:50 power-sharing, including rotational chief ministership, but BJP rejected it.
So why did unlikely allies Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress come together?
As the two parties locked horns on government formation, Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine came together to stake claim. NCP and Congress held a meeting to discuss how to partner with Sena. After a series of meetings among the senior leaders of the three parties, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said all the obstacles that stalled talks of alliance formation in Maharashtra were cleared. He hinted that his party would eventually form the government along with NCP and Congress in the state.
Why was President’s Rule was imposed in Maharashtra?
On November 8, the BJP was invited by Governor Koshyari to show a letter of support of its allies. However, the BJP clarified that it was unable to form the government since it did not have the required numbers. After the BJP failed to show support of its allies, the governor gave Sena one-day’s time to show willingness and ability to form the government. Sena chief Thackeray reached out to NCP head Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi for their support. Sena, however, suffered a setback in its efforts to cobble up a Shiv Sena-led government after Koshyari refused the party any more time.
“A delegation of leaders of Shiv Sena met the governor and expressed their willingness to form the government. However, they could not submit the requisite letter of support. Further, they submitted a letter requesting for three days of extension of the deadline for submitting the letters of support. The governor expressed his inability to give any further extension,” a statement from Governor’s House read.
On November 11, Koshyari invited the NCP to show its numbers. The governor also gave NCP 24 hours to submit their letter of support to form the government. On November 12, after even NCP failed to gain a majority support, the governor recommended imposing the President’s Rule to the Council of Ministers of India and the President. The recommendation was accepted and the President’s Rule was immediately imposed in the state.
On November 23, in the early hours, the President’s Rule was revoked as the BJP led by Devendra Fadnavis formed the government with help of Ajit Pawar’s breakaway faction of NCP.
When was election to Maharashtra legislative assembly held? What was the party position?
The BJP secured 105 seats, Shiv Sena 56, Sharad Pawar’s NCP won 54 seats, the Congress 44 seats and independent and other 29 in the 288-member Assembly in the elections held on October 21, 2019