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Maharashtra Election Shockwave
Rohit Gupta, 14 Oct 04

fazal.jpegfThe voter turnout in the recent poll for the legislative assembly in Maharashtra was 63% (3% higher than last time) which amounts to about 41.3 million people.This was also the most expensive poll ever in the state.

The most dubious feature of these five-yearly elections - "horse-trading", or the unstable and changing affections of politicos, has an interesting player this time.

Maharashtra governor Mohammed Fazal, not exactly known for treading the beaten track, has done it again. In an unprecedented move, the maverick occupant of Raj Bhavan (Governor's House) has sent a letter to political parties asking them to furnish information on their post-poll alliances forthwith.

It sought details on two counts—first, whether two or more political parties had entered into a formal electoral alliance, and second, whether the alliance would continue after the results were out. "You are requested to provide this information before October 18," said the letter.

The fiat has confused rather than unnerved politicos. It has no constitutional standing, and knowledgeable sources say that the governor cannot ask political parties to disclose their cards ahead of the formation of the government.

This is a brilliant move, even though constitutionally ambiguous, in that it accomplishes two things:

1. In anticipation that it could be a hung assembly with no clear majority, parties often break and reform alliances based not on ideology, but on numbers and mutual benefit. This move has caught them unawares. Now they have to depend on exit polls, which had proved far from accurate in the last election.

2. It exposes a huge flaw in the democratic process, as followed in India, to the people.

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You don't explain how this is a flaw.

Like any game, if one player knows everybody's planned moves, that player is going to be ahead, assuming he has any standing at all. The Governor's move is unconstitutional, so I hope the other parties don't play along.

Second, one can easily imagine, although you don't mention it, that election day is preceded, perhaps by months, of the day the new officials/majority take/takes office. In that period of time, negotiations with full information about ballot successes can be hammered out.

I don't know India's parties, past BJP(nationalist/rightist) and Congress(populist, cult of personality). If they are anything like ours, they have natural allies.

Checking shows that India has two major blocks, the National Democratic Alliance and "INC and allies", along with one much smaller communist block. Yes, a decent number of smaller, non-aligned parties, and non-partisan candidates, take at 10% at the national level, so maybe things are more fluid in Maharashtra.

I don't see the any inherent problem, though.

Posted by: Josh Narins on 16 Oct 04

The Governor does not stand for candidacy. He is an appointed head of state for several years, while the elected legislative assembly ( or the majority's leader, the Chief Minister) rules the state. It is being increasingly seen that these governments tend to be coalitions.

I should have elaborated on the structure more. My apologies. would be a better source of information, though they do have a slight tendency to sell out.:)

Posted by: Rohit Gupta on 16 Oct 04



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