The Uttarakhand High Court is hearing the matter relating to confidence vote which was to be held in the assembly but President’s Rule was clamped one day before a floor test. There are two points in this. One is a sequence of events which is political in nature, and the court cannot do much. It is for the political executives of the different parties to set healthy norms. Unfortunately, the Anti-Defection Act, like many such acts, has not served the purpose for which it was enacted. It is not easy to legislate people into morality. After all getting elected from one party and going to another is a moral issue.
By gagging them or binding them to anti-defection, the purpose is not achieved. What happened in Uttarakhand has happened in so many states before. Rebels from a party who do not constitute enough number to avoid disqualification, they decide to rebel. The speaker belonging to the ruling group expels them from membership, suspends them. So the strength of the house is artificially reduced thereby ensuring that the ruling group continues in power. The central government, whichever it is, uses it power to put president’s rule.
Even if the assembly is called now, naturally there will be a new Chief Minister and a new Speaker who will promptly reverse the disqualification by the previous speaker. It is a political infirmity and does not add any credit to democratic functioning. Speaker should be judicious, but in today’s prevailing atmosphere all speakers act according to the interest of the ruling party. The issue raised before the Uttarakhand High Court by the central government is that the President’s action cannot be challenged in law. This is an erroneous proposition. It is one thing to say the President is the symbol of the country and nothing should be said against him in his personal capacity or disparaging to him, but to say all his action should be above reproach is an untenable proposition, since the president’s actions are all according to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Wherever the word ‘President’ appears in the constitution, it must be read as Union Government. President proclaims rule means union government proclaims rule. Union government’s actions are of course subject to scrutiny by the courts. For instance the President issues an ordinance. Can an ordinance not be challenged in the court? It can be challenged every day, because an ordinance is issued by the President only in name. It is issued on the advice of the Union Cabinet. So the theory that merely because the President has enacted is above questioning or reasoning or review is not tenable at all. Which way the hearing will go, we do not know. Already, there is President’s Rule in the state, and whoever is elected Chief Minister will appoint his own Speaker who is going to reverse the defection of nine people and whomever the BJP chose will get the majority, but this is no good for democracy.
A method has to be found that if there is a real deadlock, assembly should be dissolved and election should be held. You must go back to the people’s court. In a democracy the ultimate arbitrator is the electorate. This kind of clumsy game – which has been done in Arunachal Pradesh and now in Uttarakhand, and of course scores of occasions when Congress party has done it – is not good. It was thought that Narendra Modi will set up a new trend and BJP will establish some better standards. But I am sorry to say that has not happened. In fact when they did not do that in Delhi where they already had got 32 seats they needed four or five to form a government, but they did not tried that, it gave hope to people that they want to play it fair. They went for elections, they lost and AAP government is in power. But I think after Bihar etc they understood that electorate cannot be taken for granted. So the Congress method is the only practical method which they started following in Arunachal, Uttarakhand, now maybe in Himanchal and other places. It is a sorry situation. Earlier all the parties sit together and find the method to run the constitution and democracy, better it will be for the country.
The second worrisome situation is about the drought in Maharashtra and other places. The expected good monsoon and the apprehension of floods. These are the yearly problems either too little rain or too much rain; either draught or flood or famine. I don’t think we have national plan to tackle this, we have the National Disaster Relief Commission set up by the Atal Bihar Vajpayee government which OK. But which is only an emergency force to take action when there is a calamity, but there is no plan in place to prevent the calamity. Of course they are making some schemes for garlanding of rivers, which in itself is a different issue and it has its own dangers because environmental and ecological intervention is not easy thing to do. However, what is required and immediately be done is micro-management at places where there are sensitivity where we know, for instance in Bihar every time the rivers overflow there is flood and then we take action. There has to be some concerted thinking, maybe the prime minister form a committee of experts to go into the matter and suggest means. Even if a substantial expenditure is to be incurred to put into place it is worth it. Because the amount of money you spend after a bad event either draught or flood is much more, not only in terms of money but in terms of other consequences. Let us hope the government will pay some attention to this.