What Went Beneath and What Lies Ahead – A Perspective
By Mukesh Batra
ope, neither did I wake up from the wrong side of the bed nor did the sun rise from the west that motivated me to remind the people of what recently happened in the test of democracy. I am also open to suggestions without prejudice for embarking into this attempt of deciphering the outcome of the recently held Assembly elections. Let’s first reminisce as to what happened recently in the polls followed by how the things stack up in the future.
Recently, after the results were announced, there were a flurry of activities, meetings in the multi storey tenements in the city, confabulations with the powers that be in the country’s capital and after the whole event of things unfolded nearly 20 hours later, we saw the Honorable Governor appointing the Chief Minister of the seventh Legislative Assembly. This was followed by an unprecedented resentment among the citizens amidst the ongoing political turmoil, protest with trending hash tags such as “Goa backward”, “Not my Government” etc. thereby resulting in developments that has left the people of Goa infuriated and exasperated. A total of nearly 11 lakh voters cast their vote of which were 8 lakh native Goans and 3 lakh neo Goans who cast their precious vote to elect a Government of their choice are left pondering whether it’s the Government of their choice. The neo Goans are the migrants who have settled in Goa for over 15 years and these numbers are rising. The political analysts have gone on record suggesting that the number of independent candidates could rise to 12 by the time our right falls due in the next Assembly elections. This certainly is not a healthy indication for an assembly with a meager strength of 40 MLAs.
Let’s analyze the results first. A cursory glance goes on to suggest that the seat share of BJP that had risen from 21 in 2012 to 33 in 2014 during the General elections (trend in the segments), plummeted to unhealthy 13 in 2017 whereas the seat share of INC that had marginally diminished from 9 in 2012 to 7 in 2014, rose formidably to 17 thus resulting as the single largest party leaving BJP as the second largest party. In terms of the vote share, the BJP’s figures that had had a phenomenal jump from 34.7% in 2012 Assembly elections to little over 54% in 2014 General elections decimated to 32.5% in 2017 Assembly elections. On the other hand, vote share of the INC that was at 30.8% in 2012 Assembly elections and 37% in 2014 General elections fell to 28.4% in 2017 Assembly elections and yet emerging with 17 seats. This verdict indicates that BJP seat share and the vote share fell due to antiincumbency effect and INC votes got split as we saw AAP sharing 6 percent and more importantly, Others notching up additional 4 percent bagging 7 seven seats ultimately emerging as the game changers or the king makers. The attributable reasons purported to have been INC’s late reaction, infighting resulting in an organizational failure emanating from not leaderless situation but leaderful situation as they had too many to decide the leader of the CLP. BJP on the other hand, wasted no time in initiating steps to gather the numbers to retain power, approaching the Governor and ensuring the letter of appointment of the prospective CM within 24 hours of announcement of results followed by swearing in ceremony.
The Dynamics Within
Let’s look at the dynamics within. The figures above undoubtedly point to the fact that the citizens of Goa voted BJP out of power as manifested in the fact that their numbers have reduced from 21 to 13. Therefore attempting to form the Government by managing numbers was against the mandate. While there were some suggestions made by the people on social media that BJP has the mandate due to higher vote share, an effort devoid of merit and substance for the majority is decided by the seat share and not vote share, a point vociferously assailed.
The Constitutional Provisions
Governor here exhibited avoidable alacrity and should have first called the single largest party to prove majority. This is what makes me say so. The settled legal provisions on the subject were laid down in a detailed 176 page judgment of the 5 judge Constitution bench of the Honorable Supreme court in the case ‘Rameshwar Prasad vs Union of India pronounced on 07 October 2005. Citation reference is (2006) 2 SCC 1.
The case was pertaining to the election results post Bihar Assembly elections held in 2005. In the judgement delivered by the CJI, the Honorable court, at pages 25 & 26 lent credence to the para 4.11.04 of the Sarkaria Commission report that elaborates the steps to be followed by the Governor, when no single party obtains absolute majority. The first preference is the largest alliance which did not exist in the extant case as in the case of SAD – BJP alliance in Punjab or SP – INC alliance in UP, the second being the single largest party, the third being the second largest party. Thus the Governor clearly for curious reasons resorted to the third step first. Hence, an inference could be drawn that the Governor clearly erred in accepting BJP claim to form the Government without calling the single largest party first.
The Legal Recourse
Next the legal recourse. The sudden rush to the summit court of the land too didn’t cut much ice as the INC, in its epistolary fashion, eclectic creativity and erudite passion challenged the constitutional validity of the Governor inviting BJP to form the Government. Hence I’m not sure if the Congress party in their petition drew the attention of the Honorable Supreme Court on the principles laid down in the judgment. Maybe some prudent and sedulous thinking was need of the hour. Next, something about the mandate of the citizens in a democratic process. The electoral process is about the citizens exercising their voting rights electing their representatives to form the Assembly. Let me intimate the readers the outcome of the Delhi Assembly election in 2013. In Assembly of 70 seats, BJP had the seat share of 31, AAP 28, Congress 8 and three with the independent candidates. As explicably clear, BJP could not form the Government and go past 35 mark and conceded its failure to the second largest party, AAP that faced flak during the recently held elections in the state. AAP then refusing to seek support of INC first sought referendum of the people and only after obtaining the response in the affirmative formed the Government only to resign a few months later due in fighting and repetitive threats to withdraw support. Thereafter during the reelections in Feb 15, AAP emerged with 67 seats as single largest party with BJP decimated to 3 seats and INC failing to even open the account. It deserves a mention here that the VP of the INC has been recommended to the Guinness book of records for losing 27 elections. Back to the point, even if BJP as the second largest party wanted to form the Government, they should have sought opinion of the citizens who are the integral part of democracy because the elections are about the mandate of the citizens and not a mere rat race or first past the post issue or even first come first swear in.
Drawing inference from the Delhi Assembly elections in 2013, there was a lot of talk on the social media that if INC could do that in Delhi, why can’t BJP do the same in Goa, a contention absolutely unfounded as AAP and INC had formed the Government being the second largest party after BJP conceded failure to manage the numbers. Let’s look at what lies ahead. The Government needs to focus first on gaining the confidence of people, second on financial aspects, third the infrastructure and development and four sensitive and poignant issues. Confidence of the people implies timelines for roads and bridges, mining scam, shifting of casinos. The financial issues would primarily be addressing the issue of Government borrowings up at Rs. 12,000 Cr, Fiscal deficit at Rs. 1,500 Cr, losses from the demonetization pegged at Rs. 700 Cr. The development would mean MOPA airport, upgradation of Dabolim airport, Make in Goa initiative and poignancy pertaining to Mhadei water sharing, delicensing of liquor vends along the highways. Think it over. Thanks for a patient reading. The suggestions and the criticism is solicited. Hope to be with you soon.