The state of Uttarakhand was placed under President's Rule. The Modi government has done it within two months since it dismissed and imposed central rule in Arunachal Pradesh on January 26. The imposition of President's Rule dismissing Harish Rawat regime in Dehradun is yet another addition to the catalogue of constitutional steps/sins - as one sees it - committed in exercise of the Article 356.
The provisions of the Article 356 - giving sweeping powers to the central government - are essentially aimed at restoring constitutional propriety after breakdown of the same, said V R Krishna Iyer once.
And certainly it cannot be used to settle partisan scores.
But the obvious actions from the Modi government in two Congress-ruled states suggest New Delhi has tried to trample over the state autonomy.
By doing so, Modi has followed the footsteps of the Congress reign while in power. Yet, he had promised a different kind of polity.
Abuse of Article 356, though, is nothing new in Indian politics. A few BJP leaders have tried to build up an argument that the Congress had no business to talk about constitutional decorum as the grand old party had several times dismissed non-Congress governments across the country.
"Congress is forgetting how many state governments it has dismissed in the last 60 years," Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP leader, said.
In 1992-93, the PV Narasimha Rao government at the Centre dismissed four BJP governments – in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh following the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6 December.
After the Rao regime dismissed the Nagaland government led by Vamuzo in 1992, the chief minister said that the imposition of President’s Rule did not surprise him. “After all, the Congress has always considered itself as imperial power and treated the states as colonies,” the late Vamuzo had said. In 2005, during Manmohan Singh’s regime, Goa Chief Minister Manohor Parrikar – now the Defence Minister – was dismissed by Governor SC Jamir.
Incidentally in 1990, Jamir, then Nagaland Chief Minister, was himself dismissed by Governor MM Thomas after 12 ruling Congress legislators defected from the Congress camp.
Like Rawat, Jamir had demanded trial of strength in the assembly and had managed the backing of the Speaker, late TN Ngullie.
However, Governor Thomas, during the VP Singh regime at the Centre, did not summon the assembly and had even declined to meet two Congress observers, Rajesh Pilot and SS Ahluwalia, saying the views of Congress MPs were not required on a political situation in Nagaland.
Even government led by hardcore socialist Chandrashekhar was no different. It had dismissed DMK ministry of Karunanidhi despite no adverse reports from the state Governor S S Barnala in 1990 when Chandrashekhar survived on Rajiv Gandhi's support and the latter (Rajiv) wanted to win over powerful Jayalalitha in the southern state.
Ironically, Congress party is now at the receiving end of imperial character of the central government. "Murder of democracy" being the refrain! These only bring us to the debate on the merits of Governor’s office and certain discretionary powers vested in him. Secondly, whether Article 356-357 that allows Centre the power to dismiss the state government or dissolve a state assembly or both should be deleted also needs a closer look.
A clear vindictiveness if not pettiness was the hallmark of the final decision by the BJP-led NDA on March 26-27 which not long ago has been screaming about "cooperative federalism". Logic is a major casualty in the process as also the implications of developments in Arunachal and Uttarakhand must be weighed in properly.
Not only the Modi Sarkar has put the other Congress governments like Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Karnataka on notice; it also continues with a bad precedent started by Congress long ago.
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