What do the recent Maharashtra elections show?

Maharashtra got a new government on 28th November, after nearly 35 days of the declaration of election results, when the leader of “Maha Vikas Aghadi”, Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the Chief Minister. During this period old party alliances were broken and new ones formed. Parties which before and during the election campaign attacked one other, tried to strike deals with each other. The desperation of each of the four major parties – BJP, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress — to be part of the new government and get a share of the spoils of office, was exposed to full public view.

While the leaders of these parties carried out open and secret negotiations for government formation, they also tried to break the rival parties by offering inducements to MLAs. Many of the MLAs were kept in captivity for nearly a month by their party lest they be bought over by the rival parties.

The BJP and Shiv Sena formed an alliance to fight the election on the plank of Hindutva while the NCP and Congress formed an alliance on the plank of “defending secularism”. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance broke on the issue of who the chief minister will be. Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came together to forge a new alliance, Maha Vikas Aghadi.

People witnessed the naked use of arbitrary powers vested in the Governor, Prime Minister and President by the Constitution to help the party in power at the centre – the BJP at the moment –  to come to power in the state. The Prime Minister used the power vested in him under the Constitution to bypass the abinet and recommended to the President in the middle of the night to end President’s rule. This power of the Prime Minister to bypass the Cabinet is supposed to be used in case of grave emergencies. The President passed the order ending President’s Rule in Maharashtra before dawn. The Governor swore in Devender Fadnavis as Chief Minister while the people of Maharashtra were asleep.

These developments leading up to government formation in Maharashtra (See the Box for details) have once again exposed the undemocratic character of the present political system of multi-party representative democracy in which people are powerless. The only limited role they have is of voting. After that they are helpless spectators.

The ruling capitalist class sets the agenda for elections. It finances and promotes its favourite parties, and plays an active role in government formation, including the distribution of plum posts in the government. Through elections, it decides which of its parties is best suited to implement its agenda while at the same time be best able to fool the people.

During the assembly elections, BJP used the scrapping of Article 370 and “Nation First” as the focus of its election propaganda to divert people from their real issues and concerns, about the growing gap between the rich and poor, falling incomes, lack and loss of jobs, rising prices, privatisation of education, health and other services and so on. The NCP-Congress combine blamed the BJP for the miseries of the people, while hiding the fact that they too were committed to the same orientation of the economy that is responsible for the worsening plight of workers and peasants.

Election results do not reflect the will of people

The government formed after each round of elections is declared to have the “people’s mandate”. Actually, the government formed is the one mandated by the capitalist class. Each government while claiming to be working for welfare of people actually implements anti-people policies to enrich Indian and foreign capitalist monopolies through intensified exploitation of workers, robbery of peasants, loot of public funds and plunder of natural resources.

The capitalist class, by its very nature, is divided into different factions and sectional interests. The BJP, Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena represent the interests of the biggest capitalist monopolies as well as of different regional propertied interests in Maharashtra. The dogfight between these parties has always been over the division of the loot, while they are united in their commitment to advance the anti-worker, anti-peasant programme of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation.

Since these parties represent the same capitalist class, it is easy for their members to switch from one party to another, as per their personal interests. As many as 23 leaders of Congress and NCP switched to BJP or Shiv Sena just before the Maharashtra assembly election.

There is nothing that is fundamentally different between these four parties of the capitalist class

These parties are fooling people when they claim to have different ideologies from one another. They are all committed to defend the capitalist economic and political system. This is why the capitalist class entrusts these parties to be a part of running the government on its behalf. Furthermore, they are united in their greed to capture power by any and every means, in order to enrich themselves and the capitalists who finance them. They can break one alliance and form another, without even a second thought. When no party won the majority of seats in the Assembly, the ‘Hindutva’ party, the BJP, had no hesitation in forming an alliance with the ‘secular’ NCP to form a government. And similarly, the ‘secular’ NCP-Congress alliance eventually had no qualms about supporting ‘Hindutva’ supporter Shiv Sena in leading the government.

The NCP had also offered to support the BJP in the Assembly in 2014. Prime Minister Modi himself approached NCP leader Sharad Pawar last month for the support of his party to form the BJP-led government in Maharashtra after the assembly results were out.

The machinations of these parties to break and form new coalitions in their fight for power have exposed the fact that all the four parties are communal. They try to fool people by adopting ‘secular’ or ‘Hindutva’ identity so that the fact that they are parties of the capitalist class remains hidden, and they can divide and divert people from uniting and fighting under one banner against their exploiters and oppressors.

People are not sovereign in the present system of democracy

Life experience shows that repeated rounds of elections have not led to any qualitative change in lives of workers, peasants and other toilers. One party replaces another, but the capital-centred orientation of the economy remains unchanged. All forms of oppression keep growing from bad to worse. Year after year, a rich minority grows richer while the toiling majority remains poor, and many of them become poorer. The legitimate demands of the majority of people are never fulfilled.

This shows how there is a fundamental problem in the existing system of democracy and its political process.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution gives the impression that people are sovereign in this Republic. However, the reality is that the Constitution empowers the Cabinet to decide on behalf of the entire people. Within the Cabinet, the Prime Minister enjoys extraordinary powers which allow even the cabinet to be bypassed.

The recent decision to downgrade and split up Jammu & Kashmir, for instance, was taken unilaterally by the Cabinet and then declared to be in the best interests of all. Prime Minister Modi did not need to consult the Parliament before announcing the Note Ban of 2016, depriving masses of people of their means of payment and source of livelihood. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did not need to consult the Parliament before declaring an Emergency in 1975 and formally depriving people of their “fundamental rights”.

Thousands of crores of rupees are spent by the monopoly houses to ensure that one or the other of their trusted parties gets to form the government. The working class and people have only the limited role of choosing which party of their exploiters and oppressors should run the government and manage the system of exploitation and plunder. In the existing political process, people have no role in deciding the list of candidates. Candidates are selected by the leaders of rival political parties of the capitalist class.

Elected representatives are not accountable to the electorate. People do not have the right to recall their so-called representatives, no matter how anti-people and criminal their conduct may be.

By far the biggest and most harmful lie that is propagated among our people is that the Indian people elect the government of their choice. Just because crores of people cast their vote, the impression is created that people have elected the government of their choice. However, life experience shows that elections in the existing system do not reflect the will of the people. It is not the people who determine the outcome of elections.

The political system and process is designed to ensure that only parties which have the backing of the capitalist class can win elections.

Power is in the hands of capitalist class

Repeated rounds of elections have not made any difference to the condition of workers, peasants and other toilers. The reason is that supreme power in India is wielded by the capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses. The party considered most suitable to fool people at a given point of time is selected to present the capitalist agenda by claiming it is for the benefit of people.

Central and state governments act strictly in the interests of the capitalist class. The existing system of democracy is designed to legitimize the rule of the capitalist class. The various arms of the state — the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, the institutions such as the Election Commission — all serve as instruments of rule of the capitalist class over the vast masses of people.

The fact that numerous people’s candidates entered the electoral battlefield in the Assembly elections shows the widespread discontent among people with the existing system. They challenged the domination of the parties of the bourgeoisie over selection of candidates.

What is to be done?

People need political power in their hands, so that they can organise to ensure that their needs can be met and their oppression can be ended.

The need is to establish a modern system of democracy, in which sovereignty is vested in the people.  We must establish a new political system in which decision making power is in the hands of the people, and not concentrated in a Cabinet which does the bidding of capitalist exploiters. We must establish mechanisms for people to hold their elected representatives to account. Instead of splitting into ruling and opposition camps, the elected legislative body as a whole must be collectively responsible and accountable to the people.

We must establish a political process in which election campaigns are financed by the State. All other sources of funding must be prohibited. People must enjoy the right to select and approve the list of candidates before electing one of them. They must have the right to initiate legislation, to approve major public decisions through referendum, and the right to recall their elected representative at any time.

Only such a political process can ensure power is vested in the hands of the people. Only when decision making power is in the hands of people can they reorient the economy to fulfil human needs. Only then can we ensure prosperity and protection for every member of society.

Chronology of political developments in Maharashtra

October 21, 2019: Elections for 14th Legislative Assembly carried out in Maharashtra for 288 seats.

October 24: Elections results declared. No party gets majority; BJP – 105 seats, Shiv Sena – 56 seats, NCP – 54 seats, Congress – 44 seats.

November 9: Governor invites first BJP and gives 48 hours to prove that it has the requisite majority. BJP expresses inability to form a government.

November 10: Shiv Sena invited to form the government but given only 24 hours to prove the majority support.

November 11: Shiv Sena says it can form government and requests for time of three days to give the letters of support but governor declines the request.

November 12: President’s rule imposed in Maharashtra.

November 22: Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress announce an alliance, the “Maha Vikas Aghadi” (MVA) and name Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray for Chief Minister.

November 23: President’s rule revoked at 5.47 am on Saturday; Devendra Fadnavis sworn in as Maharashtra chief minister, Ajit Pawar of NCP as deputy chief minister at 7.30 AM and two weeks’ time given to them to prove their majority in the assembly.

November 23: MVA challenges the Governor’s decision in the Supreme Court and seeks urgent hearing. SC agrees to hear the case on Sunday.

November 26: SC asks Maharashtra governor to ensure that floor test is held on Nov 27, with the exercise to be over by 5 pm and the entire proceedings to be live telecast.

November 27: Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar resign in the morning; Ajit Pawar goes back to NCP. MVA stakes claim to form government.

November 28: Uddhav Thackeray sworn in as Chief Minister.