From a fractured electoral verdict, the natural progression is towards political impasse. And in the case of Assembly elections in India, it is then a question of whom the Governor sides with. When the numbers are touch-and-go, political parties often get into horse trading and poaching of MLAs. In such instances it becomes the responsibility of party leaders to ensure that their MLAs are not baited by others
Enter ‘resort politics.’ Over the last few decades, party leaders have taken to squirreling away their MLAs to vacation spots or other hideaways to stave off poachers.
Here are some of the instances when parties ‘resorted’ to this practice:
Haryana in 1982 saw the rise of the Indian National Lok Dal, a regional challenger to the Congress.After the elections, despite not having enough seats, Governor G.D. Tapase invited the Congress to form the government, ignoring the INLD-BJP combine. Reportedly, the then-INLD chief Devi Lal grabbed the Governor by his neck for his decision, and promptly took his 48 MLAs, both from the INLD and the BJP, and holed up with them in a hotel in New Delhi. This didn’t stop a dissenting MLA from escaping, Shawshank Redemption-style, by slithering down a water pipe. The Congress went on to form the government anyway.
Although herding MLAs to resorts has been done in many States, Karnataka seems to hold the top spot in the number of times this has been done. Beginning with Ramakrishna Hegde in 1983, who sought to save his government from being dissolved by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to B.S. Yeddyurappa in the period between 2009-11, and also in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2012. During a crucial trust vote in the Assembly, around 80 BJP MLAs were taken away to a luxury resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru; and this happened multiple times in the 2009-11 period.
N.T. Rama Rao had to go to the U.S. for an open heart surgery in 1984, but in his absence, Governor Thakur Ramlal installed N. Bhaskar Rao as the Chief Minister. The actor-turned-politician took the TDP’s legislators to a resort in Bengaluru, and then to Delhi. The government in Andhra Pradesh collapsed, NTR took out the TDP equivalent of a rath yatra , and came back to power in two months, by which time, Indira Gandhi had installed Shankar Dayal Sharma as the State’s Governor.
N. Chandrababu Naidu took a page out of his father-in-law’s rule book in 1995 when he wanted to oust NTR from the party. MLAs loyal to Mr. Naidu were sequestered in a Hyderabad hotel until he could pull off a coup and take over the party.
In 1995, Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled against the BJP leadership with 47 MLAs on his side. Mr. Vaghela took them to a high-end hotel in Madhya Pradesh, where they were kept for seven days. Eventually a compromise was worked out and the then Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was replaced with a Vaghela supporter, Suresh Mehta. Even this didn’t help as Vaghela, soon after losing his Lok Sabha seat, left the party with his loyalists in tow, bringing down the State government.
Governor Romesh Bhandari dismissed the Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in 1998 during the Lok Sabha elections, and Jagdambika Pal, who was then with the Congress, was appointed as Chief Minister for 48 hours. Pending a floor test, the BJP flew its members to a secluded place, after which Mr. Singh came back and won the confidence vote. Mr. Singh also challenged the Governor’s decision in the Allahabad High Court, and armed with the High Court’s ruling in his favour, he was re-appointed as Chief Minister.
The Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal sent their MLAs to a hotel in Patna in 2000, afraid that JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar, who had been invited to form the government, would lure their legislators. Mr. Kumar was Chief Minister for seven days before he lost the trust vote. In 2005, Lok Janshakti Party MLAs stayed in a hotel in Jamshedpur to provide the JD(U) with the requisite numbers to form a government, with support from the BJP.
To ensure that his MLAs were not won over by the Shiv Sena-BJP opposition in 2002, then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh packed them off to a luxury resort in Bengaluru, and visited them to make sure they didn’t jump ship. When asked by The Hindu why the MLAs had been flown to Bangalore if he was so confident of their loyalty, Deshmukh said it had been done to prevent “street fights” in Mumbai.
In 2016, after the Congress government in Uttarakhand booted out rebel MLAs, the BJP flew its legislators to a hotel in Jaipur ahead of a confidence vote by former Chief Minister Harish Rawat. A protracted war of words ensued, with the Congress and the BJP accusing each other of horse-trading. The Centre decided to impose President’s Rule in the state, an order that was overturned by the High Court. The Congress then lost the Assembly elections in 2017.
After O. Panneerselvam resigned his Chief Minister-ship in 2017 and accused the then AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala of forcing him to do so, Sasikala took matters into her own hands and sent loyal MLAs to a resort near Chennai. The rebel faction under Mr. Panneerselvam and the Sasikala-led Edappadi K. Palaniswami faction eventually joined hands after she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case.