Ethics out, power mongering takes seat in Bihar


By: Fatima Hasan

With the scenes unfolding in different States in India, it is very clear how the modern-day governance has become a cipher in ethics. It is politics-cum- power that is given significance over public opinion. When the public is choosing their leader to rule them, then why is it that the legislators decide who remains the Chief Minister.

In the latest political turmoil on August 9, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar resigned his post after breaking his alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), soon after he held meetings with the JD (U) leaders to discuss his next political moves. He then staked claim to form Mahagathbandhan government and sought time from Governor Phagu Chauhan to prove his majority and got sworn in as 8th time chief minister in a row with RJD Leader Tejaswi Yadav as deputy chief minister for the second time.  

This shows how within days the coalition changes with the power remaining in the same hands at the top.  Even the swearing-in of the Deputy Chief Minister confirms the power equations within Mahagathbandhan coalition government. If people are the voters, then ultimate power to decide their verdict should remain with the people only. For this to happen, snap elections should be conducted if coalition collapses so that people do not wait for next term elections to decide whether to re-elect the leaders who switched loyalties or alliances to cling to power.

First of all, factions within the ruling party should be discouraged. Also, legislators joining another party after being elected on one party’s ticket itself amounts to breach of political rights of the citizens. The Supreme Court can intervene in the interest of the public and dismiss the government if formed on that basis. 

On the other hand, while leaving, Nitish Kumar alleged corruption of alliance partner BJP as his main ground for breaking ties. “Will never compromise on the issue of corruption and do service to people of Bihar along with others,” Nitish Kumar told media persons after returning from the Raj Bhawan.   Whatever the reason but it is a setback for the BJP. It came as a shocker to the saffron party. In a scathing attack on Nitish, former Union Minister and former JD-U leader R.C.P. Singh also claimed that Nitish Kumar cheated the mandate of 2020 Assembly election by breaking the alliance with the BJP.

After Mission Maharashtra, was it Operation Bihar for BJP?

It was just a month after the success of Mission Lotus of BJP in Maharashtra that it was planning to repeat the same in other States. But this abrupt development aborted the BJP’s game-plan.  It was more like Karma for what BJP did in Maharashtra that has befallen it in Bihar. The BJP was so confident that it was raising pitch of usurping power in Telangana and elsewhere in the country. After Punjab, this was another setback for BJP. In this backdrop, it seems to be backlash for few controversial decisions of NDA government like the Agnipath scheme that stirred widespread agitation in Bihar and other States.

These developments are plus points for the Maharashtra opposition for the next Lok Sabha polls. At the same time, it is a signal for BJP to rectify its administrative wrongs if at all it wants to retain power. It is time for “Operation Lotus” to be dumped once and for all time. BJP currently has allies in governments in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Manipur, Haryana, Goa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. The BJP cannot continue its practice of finishing off allies even while sharing power with them, if it wants the coalition governments to last longer. Otherwise, the allies may wait for any chance to desert the BJP. Also, BJP cannot spread its footprints by bringing defectors into its fold.

Elections are due in Bihar in 2025 but the State politics can take any shape in the run-up to the polls.  And in one stroke, just like the Punjab farmers’ stir led to the withdrawal of controversial farm laws, the people of Bihar can protest against Nitish’s antics without taking law in to their hands. However, BJP should not provoke people to come to the streets and paralyse the State administration. Not just the people but it becomes hard for even the political parties to trust a leader who has a tendency of tilting where the power goes. 

In the case of Nitish and Bihar politics itself, Nitish quit the NDA in 2013, ending a 17-year-old alliance with BJP after Narendra Modi was chosen to be National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) prime ministerial candidate. In 2017, Nitish restored ties with Modi by joining the NDA again but he has quit it yet again by joining hands with Lalu Prasads Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Now the history repeats itself and it is for the people to call for the democratic test.   Despite how much unethical Nitish’s somersaults are, it is very challenging for the people to repose faith again and for the candidates themselves to convince voters through election campaign pitch to trust them again.    

Ethical or Unethical?

The fact that there is provision in the Indian Constitution that allows for the parties to stake claim to power by taking floor test and the disqualification grounds working in their favor till now makes the whole political drama appear very much ethical. However, it makes the Constitution flawed and calls for its review. In Shivraj Singh Chouhan versus Madhya Pradesh and others, the Supreme Court held that ‘the governor is empowered to direct the incumbent chief minister to take the floor test to demonstrate the legislative trust in the government.’

Moreover, Article 175(2) of the Constitution gives the Governor the power to summon the members of the House and call for a floor test to prove whether the incumbent government has the majority in the State Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha). At the central or national level, this power lies with the President. This provision has been added in the Constitution in the interest of the people but it is being misused very frequently these days.  (eom)

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