The unexpected political churning in Maharashtra sent tremors among the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states. And, the BJP too has proved beyond doubt that it is more a party with a difference. Call it ‘Operation Lotus’ or by any other name, the BJP looks more ruthless than the Congress, which ruled the country for six decades, in destabilizing the democratically elected state governments. However, the only difference between the two parties is that Congress has ‘used’ and ‘misused’ Article 356 while the BJP successfully broke the elected parties in power or alliances. Thus, the rightist party can boast of not ‘misusing’ Article 356 in its nine-year rule is the only ‘credible’ argument, which may hoodwink even a layman. To justify the party’s claim, the BJP cites the example of how the Kerala’s Communist Party government in 1959 was dismissed unceremoniously by Jawaharlal Nehru. This has become a norm of his successive Congress governments headed by his daughter (Indira Gandhi) and grandson (Rajiv Gandhi).
Apart from the dynasts, their loyalists like PV Narasimha Rao or Dr Manmohan Singh, too followed that path, to ensure that the ‘dirty political’ tag continues. Article 356 of the Constitution allows the Centre to dismiss an elected state government and impose “President’s Rule”. Its rampant misuse by almost all central governments was largely curbed after the Supreme Court’s landmark Bommai judgment of 1994. According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress governments at the Centre had dismissed 90 state governments by “misusing” Article 356, and Indira Gandhi had done it 50 times. And the worst of that sort was in Andhra Pradesh (AP) against NT Ramarao’s Telugu Desam Party government in 1984, a year after he steered his newly-formed party to power, unseating the Congress from its bastion. AP was considered the Congress stronghold since the state formation in 1956 because, when the entire country voted out Indira Gandhi’s Congress government in 1977, post-emergency, the state ensured 41 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress. And, the credit goes to former chief minister and Indira Gandhi loyalist Jalagam Vengal Rao.
Contrary to the Congress style of destabilizing an elected government to forcibly foist its government in states, Modi’s new formula appears to be splitting the ruling party by identifying the most aspiring leader in that party and joining hands to establish a BJP government. Such an experiment proved successful and advantageous to the BJP since it came to power in 2014. Whether in Karnataka or Maharashtra or Bihar or Madhya Pradesh or Goa the rightist party succeeded in its efforts.
More than the Congress, the BJP looks more ruthless in wiping out the Opposition parties in the country too, which began with the slogan ‘Congress mukht’ Bharat. The BJP, however, failed to prevent the Congress from returning to power in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, besides Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, during the last couple of years. The saffron party’s success in reducing the Congress to an insignificant force in national politics and its new ‘mission’ to destroy even the regional parties like the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, is set to pose a danger to Indian democracy. Yet, the BJP justifies its new ‘mission’ stating that why blame when the disgruntled in these parties chose to come out of their suffocation and join hands with them, to serve the people (read as enjoy power)? Is this not part of democracy, is the BJP’s poser to its critics. This is a clear shift that the country is witnessing from ‘appeasement politics’ to ‘polarization’ of nationalists or Hindus. Part of that exercise, the BJP has dropped enough hints that it may align with those who left the National Democratic Alliance of 2014, like the Janata Dal Secular (Karnataka), Shiromani Akali Dal (Punjab), Janata Dal United (Bihar). The party also looks to concretize its ties further with ‘friends in arms’ like the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party of Jaganmohan Reddy (AP) and Biju Janata Dal of Naveen Patnaik (Odisha). According to political analysts the BJP, which enjoys an envious 37.7 per cent vote share, wanted to not only increase its own tally, but also ensure with the help of regional parties an over 50 per cent mandate, to assume power in 2024.