By Zaboor Ahmad:
For all intents and purposes, the debate to categorise people into the ‘nationalist’ and ‘anti-national’ brackets is over. The one who will chant ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is a nationalist. Scandalous and outrageous indeed but, we may thank the ultra-nationalists and right-wingers for the setting these conditions.
But authoritarian proclivities have surfaced again and the ‘murder of democracy’ in on the cusp. Whosoever has ruled has trenchantly harboured such tendencies, and used power to settle old political scores or to score brownie points. The peculiarity of Indian politicians, however, is the misuse of the Constitution and particularly of Article 356, which Bhimrao Ambedkar had characterised as a ‘dead letter‘ in the Constitution, to be used sparingly. While he is now dead, its misuse has continued.
Before resorting to the dismissal of a government on the grounds of the breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state under Article 356, the government must leave no stone unturned to put things in order in the state. The governments in India often fail to take action on many important issues, yet this one has not failed to call its team in at the slightest possibility of dislodging a government in states.
The crisis in Uttrakhand started as nine Congress MLAs along with archrival BJP’s 26 MLAs met governor K. K. Paul seeking the dismissal of the Harish Rawat government which they claimed was now short of the magic number required to form the government. The anti-defection law inserted by the 52nd Amendment Act aims to prevent the wholesale horse trading in legislatures. The funniest thing is, legislators have made the act unworkable. Besides, even when the rebel legislators had been disqualified by the Speaker of Assembly, a notification was not sent to the Chief Ministers Office.
The BJP government, known for taking bold risks, called the Cabinet and decided to put the state under President’s Rule and the Assembly in suspended animation. But, it has lowered the esteem of the Supreme Court by failing to abide by the precedent set by the Court in S. R. Bommai case. The Court had made it clear that before the imposition of President’s rule, a composite floor test is sine qua non to settle the rival claims. But, before the composite floor test was to be held on the day fixed by the Governor to ascertain the claim of Harish Rawat of having a majority, the Centre imposed President’s rule.
Uttrakhand High Court hearing Rawat’s plea allowed the floor test while simultaneously allowing the entire rebel MLA contingent of the Congress party to vote but separately under the watchful eye of an observer appointed by the court. The court had initially fixed the date of 31st March for this. The Central government has decided to contest the High Court judgement allowing the floor test in the Supreme Court on the plea that High Court cannot poke its nose in the matter. In the S. R. Bommai case, the Supreme Court said that the imposition of President’s rule is “subject to judicial review”. In the Rameshwar Prasad vs. Union of India, it had said that such an imposition must be based on relevant material.
Without going further into the Constitutional nitty-gritty of the issue, the question that pops up is how long will Indian politicians take to make mature decisions and tame their lust for power? How long will the electorate dance to the tune of politicians? How long will the precious resources of the country be squandered on the frequent elections, simultaneously allowing other people to die of want. It is time to pause and ponder indeed. Enough is enough and the time has arrived to fine tune the anti-defection law to tame the capricious whims and fancies of all those claiming to be our representatives.