Who murdered democracy in Maharashtra?

Maharashtra, India’s economic engine, is witnessing political opportunism and uncertainty of the worst kind.

There is no functional government in place in the state even a month after the electorate gave a clear mandate to the time-tested, right-wing Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the assembly elections.

Greed blinded Shiv Sena with 54 seats to demand the chief minister’s post after BJP with 105 seats failed to get majority to form a government on its own. The saffron party rejected the demand and Shiv Sena walked out of the alliance to join hands with its political foes Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) who promised the chief minister’s post to the regional party.

For weeks, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress leaders talked and talked as the electorate waited. On Friday night last week, NCP’s top leader Ajit Pawar extended support to the saffron party. Hours later, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as chief minister for the second term and Ajit took oath as deputy chief minister at a hurriedly arranged ceremony at the governor’s official residence.     

Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress have challenged the inauguration of Fadnavis and Ajit in the Supreme Court which is set to pronounce orders on the governor’s conduct and the date of the House vote for the BJP-NCP faction to prove majority.

On the eve of the court’s key rulings, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress paraded its legislators before media in a luxury hotel to show their strength. This was unprecedented in Maharashtra politics.

It was a parade of lies. Only some 137 legislators were present at the conference hall of the hotel while the posters put up on the wall claimed ‘We are 162’.

Before media could take a head count, the legislators stood up, took a Hitler-style salute, pledged allegiance to their alliance and trooped out.

The legislators were bussed to their respective hotels where they will remain until the day of the trust vote.

Earlier in the day, Congress MPs protested against the inauguration of Fadnavis and Ajit by holding placards that read ‘Murder of Democracy’ in the parliament’s premises in New Delhi.

Inside the parliament, two Congress MPs held a banner near the well of the House. Soon, a scuffle broke out between other Congress MPs and marshals after Speaker Om Birla ordered the eviction of the two unruly MPs.

During the past few days, leaders in Maharashtra have stopped their rhetoric on the crippling drought, farmers’ suicides, companies shut and job losses. Instead, they are making tall claims about numbers to form a government.

For millions of ordinary people who stood patiently in long queues to vote for their party or leader expecting good governance, the ongoing game of numbers is a mockery of democracy.

The legislators’ parade at the luxury hotel on Monday must have shocked voters. One cannot blame them if they gradually lose trust in democracy.