A look at what newspaper editorials had to say on #MaharashtraPoliticalDrama

A look at what newspaper editorials had to say on #MaharashtraPoliticalDrama

Editorials called out the BJP’s undermining of Constitutional norms.

By Snigdha Sharma

Published on :

The political drama in Maharashtra has been nothing short of a nail-biting Netflix series and most journalists are probably glad that it’s all finally over. Hopefully. 

In a late-afternoon press conference yesterday, former Maharashtra Chief Minister (of four days), Devendra Fadnavis, announced his resignation declaring that the Bharatiya Janata Party will now work as an effective Opposition. Just hours before this, the former Deputy Chief Minister of the state (of four days), the prodigal nephew, Nationalist Congress Party’s Ajit Pawar too resigned. This swift succession of twists came about after the Supreme Court directed Fadnavis to prove his majority in a floor test through an open ballot, the proceedings of which were to be telecast live. 

Most TV news channels had a field day discussing “Maha Politics” on primetime last night, special points to Aaj Tak for curating a playlist dedicated to Maharashtra politics. 

Meanwhile, newspaper editorials today offered some points to reflect on.

The Indian Express commented on how the BJP suffered a double whammy in Maharashtra; the first being Ajit Pawar’s decision to withdraw his support and the second being the Supreme Court’s order to face a floor test. The sorry state of affairs that played out, subverting basic constitutional rules, require thorough assessment, it said. “The next government in Maharashtra starts with an unclean slate,” the editorial declared. The edit, though, noted that “the taint is, most of all, on the BJP” and that “the responsibility for playing fast and loose with the Constitution rests with the BJP”.

The paper also published an op-ed penned by Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewalla, co-authored by Muhammad Khan, an advocate known for his petitions on Aadhar. While Surjewalla hailed the apex court’s order as the sun rising on Maharashtra in spite of midnight coups, the fact that the top court had to intervene was an unfortunate matter, he added. “This episode was also a reminder of the BJP’s unsettling fondness to execute its moves under the cover of darkness (as in the late-night movements against a former CBI chief) or in the confines of a sealed envelope. Are these the actions of a government that swears by transparency?” he asked.

The Times of India carried a short editorial that pointed to how the entire episode dragged three important offices, that of the Governor, the PMO and the President, into unnecessary controversy. “The Maharashtra gambit has virtually isolated BJP, evident in the Opposition’s boycotting of the joint session of both Houses of Parliament to mark the 70th anniversary of the Constitution. This was a prestigious moment for the country and the government but the events in Maharashtra have clouded the Constitution Day celebrations,” the editorial said. 

The editorial in The Hindustan Times labelled the twists and turns in Maharashtra’s political scenario as a lesson for the BJP. The editorial said the BJP had the perfect opportunity to take the moral high ground when it accepted that it did not have the numbers to form the government after its former ally, Shiv Sena, refused anything less than a 50-50 power-sharing formula. It also called out Maharashtra Governor, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, as willing to act on behalf of the BJP.  Constitution expert, Gautam Bhatia, in his article for the newspaper, elaborated on the concept of constitutional conventions or the unwritten norms and rules of behaviour that guide the conduct of powerful political players. “The events in Maharashtra reflect a near-complete breakdown of constitutional conventions; a sordid set of events to which every player involved has contributed,” Bhatia wrote. Commenting on the Supreme Court’s intervention in the crisis that unfolded in Maharashtra, Bhatia said it was not the top court’s job to sort out political messes. HT did not have an edit piece on the issue.

An article by Radhika Ramaseshan in Mumbai Mirror shed light on the apparent blame game within the BJP over the Maharashtra catastrophe. “Of great concern to the BJP was not only the loss of power in India’s financial capital but the reports that industry and big money had backed the Sena-led coalition,” she added.

The Telegraph’s editorial piece called the crisis in Maharashtra a development that attempted to undermine the principles of the Constitution. It said: “Indeed, India is no stranger to periodic developments that seek to undermine, or even subvert, constitutional democracy in the country. The Emergency was not the only black chapter.  In more recent times, ‘Operation Lotus’ bloomed in Karnataka by engineering defections in the government led by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular). It was the BJP — why is it always the BJP? — that came to power as a result.”

Meanwhile, The Hindu published a strongly-worded editorial that termed the Fadnavis-led BJP’s attempt to secure the government in Maharashtra “in the dead of the night” as “brazen.”  However, it said, the fact that this attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the Supreme Court’s timely intervention, was a reassurance that constitutional order still exists in India. “The BJP’s nocturnal capture of power in Maharashtra was a dispiriting episode in Indian democracy,” it concluded. 

The paper also carried an opinion piece by Mohammed Ayoob headlined ‘Tragicomedy in Maharashtra’. Ayoob said the change in government in Maharashtra has serious implications for BJP and raises concerns over India’s constitutional and political morality. On the fall of the BJP-NCP alliance, he writes, “The BJP seems to have egg on its face with the collapse of its attempt to return to power in Maharashtra with the aid of a breakaway Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction led by Ajit Pawar.”