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April - May 2005


Despicable Distortion of Democratic Norms

by Krishan Ralleigh

Three states of India, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana held elections for their respective state assembly in February. The results were declared on 27 February. The Congress party in Haryana received overwhelming majority; but in Bihar and Jharkhand, no single party or party alliance could get outright majority. Consequently, the confused outcome led to conspiracies and flouting of the norms of Constitution by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance at present ruling the Central Government in India.

In Bihar, the RJD, led by Lalu Prasad Yadav, lost its majority; but the main opposition, the BJP-JD (U) combine could not muster enough legislators to form a majority government. In Jharkhand, the election result again favoured a coalition government. Here, the NDA lost its absolute majority but remained the largest party in the new assembly.

Within the very first year of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, the true picture of Sonia-Gandhi led government has emerged. It will be a travesty of the truth if we think it to be Manmohan Singh-led government. Consequently, the pivotal position of the head of government has been diminished. The power has, unconstitutionally shifted to the president of the Congress party who is not the leader of the majority party in Parliament.

The nefarious impact of this extra-constitutional power base has become visibly prominent in the recent unseemly fight for power in Goa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana.

The dissolution of Goa assembly and the imposition of President’s rule (in effect, rule by the central government) was taken by the leader of the Congress party at the centre so that the BJP may not be able to form the government in Goa. In Bihar, Governor Buta Singh, one-time home minister of India under Indira Gandhi government, did not even bother to invite the NDA, the party with the larger number of legislators than any other party, to form the government. As a constitutional rule, the leader of the party with the highest number of legislators should be invited to form the government. If he finds it impossible to form a majority government, the constitutional head, and in this case, the governor, should then ask the second largest party to form a government if it is able to muster a majority. If the second option also fails, then the governor can justifiably recommend the dissolution of the House to the President of India. The governor of Bihar took the extreme step of recommending the President’s rule without going through the motion of inviting the party with the highest number of legislators, in this case the NDA, to form the government. It was a Gordian knot solution to benefit the Congress party, which had only ten members in the new assembly. Mr. Ram Bilas Paswan, the leader of the LJP with 29 legislators, is a member of the UPA coalition at the Centre. So is Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav whose party has the second largest number of seats in the assembly. He is also a cabinet minister in the central government led by the Congress party. Thus, the President’s rule in Bihar, favours the Central government led by the Congress party.

In Jharkhand, the election result again favoured a coalition government. As a constitutional rule, the governor of the state, a constitutional head, should have asked the leader of the party with the most legislators, here again NDA, to form the government. However, the governor, Mr Syed Sibte Razi, a Muslim, and a Congress loyalist, asked the leader of the JMM-Congress Combine, the party with far less votes than the NDA, to form the government. Over and above, he gave him a long duration to show his majority in the house to enable him to coax or coerce other members to his side.

This was a flagrant defiance of a well-established constitutional law by a constitutional head. Mr. Razi, by taking such a foolhardy step has not only tarnished the sanctity and prestige of a governor’s constitutional position; but has indeed, indirectly, poisoned the relations between Muslims and Hindus of the state. This unconstitutional act of his was on the prompt of the emissaries of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Priya Ranjan Munshi and Subodh Sahay, the two central ministers who were constantly in Ranchi, the capital of the state. They must have told the governor the wishes of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to which he sheepishly complied. The poor man was seen reciting the famous Urdu couplet before the media, “Kehne ko to bahut kuchh tha agar kehne ko aatey: Apni to yeh aadat hai kai ham kuchh nahi kehte”. (There were many tales to tell, if we had wanted to speak; but it is a part of my habit not to say a word).

Yes, Mr. Razi, we look forward to read your autobiography one day, and hope you do not put any time restriction on its publication, as was done by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who confessed in his autobiography (published 30 years after his death) that the Indian National Congress of Jawahar Lal Nehru betrayed the nationalist Muslims of India by accepting the partition of India. He was a great patriot and leader of Muslims and of India. What Mohamad Ali Jinnah thought of him is a different matter!

Mr. Razi and India at large should be grateful to the Supreme Court of India, for containing the damage caused to democratic norms in Jharkhand. The leader of the majority party, the NDA, has been invited to form the next government.

In Haryana, the less said the better. Chauthala government lost its majority by a huge margin. The BJP failed miserably. The Congress triumphed. But here again, in stead of letting the elected members of the Congress party in the assembly to elect their leader (a fundamental democratic rule in any democracy), a new leader was imposed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party. Mr. L.K. Advani, the leader of the BJP had, in the last election, advised the people of Haryana to vote for Congress if they did not want to vote the BJP. It irked Mr. Chauthala. Both Mr. Chauthala’s party and the BJP have suffered. Monolithic leadership without democratic structure built in from the roots upward, can bring dictatorship even in a country with democratic structure established at the top level only.

Let us make no mistake. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is trying to emulate the ways of Indira Gandhi of 1976 emergency, the darkest years of Indian democracy. The power had shifted from the elected head to the nominated heir apparent, the young Sanjay Gandhi, with disastrous result for Indian democracy. Indira Gandhi could do and survive because she was the daughter of Jawahar Lal Nehru, and, in better times, had liberated people of Bangladesh from the tyranny of Pakistan.

Sonia Gandhi, on the other hand, has nothing to boast of any past credits except the fact that she is the widow of late Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi. She may have imbibed some of their virtues in her personality; but she does not inherit any of their genes.

Today, the ruling party at the Centre has an excellent Prime Minister and a very capable finance minister. However, for them to be in the company of ministers of the like of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Bilas Paswan and Shibu Soren has become political necessity. To Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, they are the pawns to be used to checkmate the rising stars of her own party. Like them, she can use any unscrupulous means to get to the levers of power. Moreover, power without responsibility is the greatest danger to Indian democracy. Sanjay Gandhi, with all his good intentions, wielded power without responsibility. This weakened Indira Gandhi and India. Today, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her cohort with the extra constitutional powers are dragging India to the same precipice again.

The recent happenings in Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand should awaken the masses of India to a situation manipulated in such a manner as to create the possibility of a breakdown of India’s constitution. The bogey of the so-called Hindu communalism can be trumpeted by pseudo secular parties who lust for power by any means. An inkling of such a situation happening cannot be far fetched after the ghastly events of the last few weeks in Goa, Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand.

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