The new BJP government in Maharashtra has begun on a sour note, with a cloud gathering over the trust vote that the government won amid chaotic scenes in the assembly on Wednesday. The Shiv Sena and the Congress, whose demand for a division of votes was denied, have alleged that the trust vote was unconstitutional. In a state where the BJP has just posted a famous victory, the Devendra Fadnavis government would appear to have quickly mired itself in a mess of its own making.
The trust vote is the occasion for the formal legitimisation of a government after the verdict. It must necessarily be a transparent process, and leave no ambiguity about the support the government commands in the House. Since the House was divided over the voice vote, the Maharashtra speaker should have put the trust motion through a division of votes. In the event, the BJP, which is short of the simple majority of 145, won the trust motion, but it is unclear how the numbers stacked up. Of course, the BJP had a reason to shirk a division of votes — it would have had to acknowledge the “unconditional” support of the NCP’s 41 MLAs to make up for its shortfall in numbers, thereby drawing attention to a turnaround vis a vis a party it had attacked so aggressively for corruption during the election campaign.
Chief Minister Fadnavis begins on the onerous task of running a minority government in a political climate already marked by antagonism between government and opposition. For the sake of the stability of his own government and in the best interests of the state that he now leads, he needs to reach out to the opposition. Five Congress MLAs have been suspended from the assembly for two years for alleged misconduct with the governor, and this is likely to further raise political temperatures. To move forward from here, the BJP government must shed the combative mood of the party’s campaign and reach out to its opponents in the House. Maharashtra is far too complex a state for a minority government to navigate without the opposition on board.