The much talked about Maharashtra model of toppling a government is not the first one and the alleged topplers were its victims once in Gujarat where the then BJP leader Shankarsinh Vaghela revolted and led his pack of MLAs to Khajuraho. He became chief minister with the support of the Congress.
Vaghela led an exodus of BJP MLAs to the Congress in 1995 and formed the Rashtriya Janta Party. However, the BJP for the first time won a majority in Gujarat and Keshubhai Patel became the chief minister.
In a deja vu the main players have changed — first it was the Congress and now it is the BJP which is on a toppling spree since it gained power in 2014. The recent development in Maharashtra is somewhat of a replica of the 1995 Gujarat happenings where Eknath Shinde is just a role reversal but it has to be seen what is the ending, with merger with the BJP or a separate entity.
The spotlight has been on such political turmoil engineered by the parties which have been in power. The BJP has toppled many governments and failed in some states. Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are examples where the MLAs of a party and alliance resigned to manufacture a majority for the BJP. It also tried to replicate it in Rajasthan but failed due to quick action by the Congress.
Earlier the Congress used to dismiss state governments using Article 356 but since the Bommai judgment defection has been the most used weapon. The anti-defection law could not stop MLAs from switching sides. The northeast and Goa are examples where the governments changed overnight. Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur are examples of this.
The recent attempt to break the Congress in Goa was averted despite the BJP being the ruling party. The BJP has not lost hope although the Congress averted a possible revolt by its MLAs in Goa for the time being, but the BJP claims that the opposition lawmakers are still in touch with it.
All the Congress MLAs except former chief minister Digambar Kamat attended a meeting called by senior party leaders Mukul Wasnik and Dinesh Gundu Rao.
“Will the Congress party answer, why would we do this (defection)? Is the BJP short of a majority in Goa? The BJP government is comfortably placed in the Goa assembly. We have 25 MLAs in the 40-member Goa assembly,” a BJP leader said.
However, he said that some Congress MLAs are in touch with the BJP as they are not happy with their leadership.
“It looks like the crisis in the Goa Congress may have been resolved for the time being but some of their MLAs are still in touch with us,” he said.
Congress leader Malllikarjun Kharge said about the Maharashtra coup, “Destabilising democratically elected state governments has become a habit for the BJP. From Karnataka, MP, Goa, Manipur, Arunachal, to Puducherry, this undemocratic poaching and horse trading of MLAs is utterly disgraceful.”
The BJP leaders in states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana are boasting about the model which can be replicated in these states. BJP leader K Annamalai said, “there are many Eknath Shinde’s in the DMK,” creating a furore in the state.
In the political coup in Madhya Pradesh, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia led a pack of MLAs to enable the fall of the Congress government in the state, which was formed after 15 years of BJP rule in 2018. But all the rebels had to resign and seek re-election. The same thing happened in Karnataka but in Rajasthan Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot outplayed the BJP in the game of thrones.
In Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2007 polls when the BSP gained a full majority, it was a game of musical chairs with the BSP breaking up into many factions and supporting the BJP led government as an entity of Jantantrik BSP and the Congress breakaway faction led by Naresh Agarwal as the Loktantrik Congress.
Jagdambika Pal was installed as the chief minister with the help of the Samajwadi Party but could not sustain it for a day and after the SC’s intervention could not prove his majority. At the same time Inder Kumar Gujral was the Prime Minister supported by the Congress but then BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sat on protest. He too lost his 13-day government in 1996 as he could not prove his majority. In his next stint in 1998 his 13-month-old government lost the floor test but he said that he did not indulge in horse trading. He was again elected in 1999 and ran his government till 2004.
Prior to the so called Maharashtra model the role of governors was important as their reports mattered in using Article 356. In 1998 then governor Romesh Bhandari dismissed the Kalyan Singh government.