The irony is not lost on the country. On a day that is celebrated as Constitution Day, the murky power politics in Maharashtra reminded the nation of the serious challenges to the core constitutional values and independence of the sacred institutions. However, the day also brought hope as the Supreme Court stepped in and ordered a floor test through an open ballot. Such interventions by the highest court of the land restore faith in the primacy of constitutional norms and help check their misuse. By fast-forwarding the floor test to determine who enjoys the majority in the Assembly, the court has helped in preventing horse-trading. Both Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his deputy Ajit Pawar have quit, but not before bringing the democratic institutions to disrepute. In fact, all the players involved in the scramble for power are guilty of violating the principles of fair play and displaying rank opportunism. As the nation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the adoption of Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, the Maharashtra muddle, marked by unabashed mockery of the Constitution, provides an occasion for introspection and assessment of the actions of constitutional heads and how they have consistently toed the line of ruling establishment at the cost of fairness and democracy. On this day in 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India formally adopted the Constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950. It is also commemorated as the National Law Day.
If the midnight political coup to install the BJP government through blatant subversion of the constitutional procedures made one cynical about the way democracy is practised in the country, the Supreme Court’s intervention makes one hopeful about the efficacy of the checks and balances built into the system. There have been innumerable cases of misuse of constitutional machinery in the past as well when the Congress was at the helm. The non-Congress ruled States were summarily dismissed by invoking Article 356. The real tribute to the Constitution Day lies in holding those in positions of power accountable for their actions. The Constitution is not just a manual for the governments but also represents the soul of India, a sacrosanct commitment. The game of thrones played out in Maharashtra, following a fractured mandate, has not only raised questions about the falling standards of political morality but also brought under scanner the role played by the constitutional heads. There is a need for sweeping reforms to clean up the mess in the electoral system. The Supreme Court must now give clear guidelines on government formation in case of fractured verdicts, given the frequency of disputes in this regard. This would restrain Raj Bhavans from using undue discretion and political parties from bending rules with the help of pliable institutions.