When UPA sent Deputy CM to raid an aeroplane to stop BJP from forming government

In terms of realpolitik, here is what is happening in Goa and Manipur. The BJP got more votes but less seats. Now, the BJP is striking a deal with smaller players to grab power in both states.

In other words, the Congress benefited from an idiosyncrasy of the electoral process and ended up with more seats with less votes. Now, the BJP is benefiting from an idiosyncrasy of the parliamentary process and winning power even with less seats.

Based on their party sympathies, I am sure people will take their pick on which party is “murdering democracy”. In the meanwhile, I came across this tweet:

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Coming from P Chidambaram, one can only assume that this tweet was basically intended as a joke,  perhaps in a light “Bura na mano holi hai” mood. I could have called it a case of the “devil quoting the scriptures”, but I do not subscribe to the dark absolutes of Abrahamic thought.

Nevertheless, the Honorable Former Minister felt the need to specify that his Twitter account is intended for  “short but serious comment on contemporary issues”. Which puts me in the mood to tell you a story. It’s a political thriller from 2005. Listen if you will.

Here are the results (pdf link) of the Assembly Election in the State of Jharkhand from Feb – March 2005 (Total of 81 seats).

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The BJP was by far the largest party, winning 30 seats out of the 63 seats it contested. The BJP’s pre-poll alliance partner JD(U) contested the other 18 seats and won 6. This took the NDA tally to 36 in the 81 member Assembly.

The UPA parties were far behind with JMM winning 17 and Congress winning just 9 for a total of 27 seats if you would like to include the NCP’s lone MLA as well.

Immediately after the results, the BJP received the support of 5 other MLAs : 2 from the AJSU (All Jharkhand Students Union), the lone MLA from the Jharkhand Party and 2 other independents. This took the NDA tally to 41, which would be a clear majority.

(Side note: Because of the lack of any identifiable party structure or discipline in the two smaller parties mentioned above as supporting BJP, several media sources for this article tend to refer to all these 5 MLAs simply as “independents”).

The BJP duly staked claim to form the government and also physically presented the 5 supporting MLAs before the Honorable Governor of Jharkhand.

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But then, Governor Syed Sibtey Razi did something that shocked and stunned the entire state of Jharkhand. He invited JMM supremo Shibu Soren to form the government. Soren was sworn in as CM and Stephen Marandi as Deputy CM.

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To give you an idea of how muddy the political waters were in Jharkhand in 2005, let me mention that Stephen Marandi was a JMM rebel who had just won as an independent from Dumka, defeating Shibu Soren’s own son Hemant! In fact, Hemant Soren finished in 3rd position in Dumka with just 20,000 votes. The BJP candidate came second.

The NDA called for a statewide bandh and an agitation, but there was little it could do otherwise. The only option for them was to fly the 41 MLAs to Delhi to be paraded before President Kalam, winning a “moral victory” in public view. The date chosen for this was March 3, 2005. It was now a simple matter of getting these 41 MLAs, including the 5 precious independents, on the 90 minute flight from Ranchi to Delhi.

Right?

No!  Not so fast!

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Yes, you read that right! Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi and his men stopped the chartered plane on the runway at Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Airport as it was about to take off! The plane was ordered to return and then raided to capture the independent MLAs on board. This is not a Hollywood movie. This is a low budget thriller produced by our UPA government.

So what did the UPA do once it caught hold of these 5 MLAs?

Nothing. Because the 5 MLAs weren’t on board at all.

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While the Congress government was busy at Ranchi Airport, the 5 independents were actually being driven across the state border. Where were they headed? To BJP ruled Chhattisgarh, obviously. They would be safe there.

Except they weren’t going to Chhattisgarh. Because that was the first border that the UPA government sealed when they realized the MLAs were escaping.

Surely they were headed to Odisha then? Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, then in NDA, would protect them.

Wrong again. The MLAs were actually headed to CPI(M) ruled West Bengal. The panicked UPA government deployed minimum resources on that border, convinced that the BJP would never choose a state ruled by the Left Front!

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Once in Durgapur, the MLAs received further orders from Venkaiah Naidu, who made them turn towards Kharagpur Railway Station. There, at 2:30 AM on March 3, the MLAs boarded a train to Bhubaneswar. At 5 AM on March 3, they were finally safe.

Meanwhile, the BJP continued to bluff, throwing the UPA’s sniffers off the trail over and over again. Rumors were spread that the MLAs were still in Ranchi, then it was said they were in Delhi. At one point, the BJP even spread the rumor that they had been moved to Ahmedabad.

That afternoon, the 5 supporting MLAs finally caught an Indian Airlines flight from Bhubaneswar to Delhi. They were then presented before the President of India.

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Nine days later, Jharkhand Governor Sibtey Razi dismissed Shibu Soren from the post of Chief Minister and invited Arjun Munda to form the government in the state.

PS: Personally, I do not support BJP’s act of forcing in a government in Goa. The party and Parrikar’s image would have been better off not getting involved, the numbers being what they are. 

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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