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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

The original sin

By G. S. Bhargava - Syndicate Features

One should welcome the Communist Party (Marxist) opposition to the move to dismiss the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Government in Uttar Pradesh on the plea that the Supreme Court disqualification of 13 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) defectors had rendered ‘illegal’ the very formation of the Government about four years ago.

Considering that the Congress party is unfazed by the CPI (M) stance it could be more a gesture than a genuinely principled objection to the misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution. After all, when it comes to the crunch there would always be the alibi that the CPI (M) could not let down the ruling coalition and objectively benefit the ‘communal’ BJP. In other words, ‘secularism’ would be handy to cover up a necessary somersault.

Even then, it is welcome that when self-proclaimed upholders of the rule of law and constitutional propriety are found wanting, the CPI (M) will have stolen their clothes. Also, in the likely event of Mulayam Singh reaping the fruits of martyrdom being thrust on him and winning the next election, the CPI (M) will get a footing in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh.

The CPI (M) claim that the Communists had been the ‘worst victims’ of misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution is an allusion is to the dismissal of the E.M.S. Namboodiripad-led Government in Kerala in 1959. It was the first Communist government in the country --- Communist party had not split then between what were originally called Pro-Moscow and Pro-China factions. The state of Kerala had just been formed by the integration of the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin with the adjoining Malayali-speaking areas of Madras Presidency in 1957. In the state assembly elections in the same year, the Communists had won handsomely defeating the Congress and the PSP (Praja Socialist Party). Indira Gandhi, who was president of the Congress party, got the Namboodiripad Government enjoying majority in the legislature removed on the plea of breakdown of the Constitution.

What was looked upon as the ‘rape of the Constitution’ was the first instance of abuse of Article 356 of the Statute within five years of its coming into force. Nehru was visibly uneasy. The popular Malayalam play, “you made me a Communist,’ of the Communists reflected public reaction to the outrage.

The striking difference is that while in 1959 Nehru was queasy about the misuse of the Constitution, today, nearly five decades later, Congress party leaders talk of morality while planning a similar manoeuvre! Such has been the erosion of democratic values in our public life. If Nehru had an inkling of what might lie in store for the country after his daughter establishes the dynasty, casting his fair name in the mud and cashing on Gandhiji’s charisma he did not give indication of it.

Retrospectively, Nehru might have sought solace from the endorsement of the step by the leader of the Praja Socialist Party, (PSP), Asoka Mehta. Apart from the PSP and the Communists being congenital enemies, the PSP was heading a coalition government with the numerically larger Congress party in the Part ‘B’ State of Travancore-Cochin, before its integration into Kerala. Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia, who was technically senior to Asoka Mehta in the socialist movement, on the other hand, said dismissing an elected government violated both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. As it happened, after the failure of the coalition partners to win the 1957 assembly election, the Congress had taken the short cut of enticing the veteran PSP leader, Pattom Thanu Pillai, into its fold. Asoka Mehta denounced it as ‘politics of piracy’.

But it has become a part of our political life. Also, the flair for dismissal of governments for their alleged ‘crimes of commission and omission.’ The Communists have been as vociferous in demanding the dismissal of the Narendra Modi Government of Gujarat as they have been in defending Mulayam Singh Such doublethink is not democratic values.

Within Kerala, meanwhile, the long-term offshoot of opportunism is the virtual extinction of the Socialist Party, and its many incarnations—Kerala Socialist Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Janata Dal. On the other hand, the CPI (M), in spite of the split, has become a mass party to head a coalition alternatively with the Congress party. Meanwhile, the Muslim League, with its new nomenclature of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has been a partner, by turns as it were, of the CPI (M) and the Congress .It has been certified as ‘secular’ in Kerala, perhaps because like other parties it has been undergoing splits. More than its ‘secularism’, both the Congress Party and the CPI (M) have been coveting it. They have not also hesitated to take recourse to gerrymandering by forming the predominantly Muslim district of Mallapuram as a pocket borough for the League factions.

At the national level, defections have become so rampant that Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister got the so-called anti-defection law enacted in 1985 in the shape of Tenth Schedule to the Constitution. But hardly had the ink on the document been dry than he engineered ‘defection’ by Chandra Shekhar and his supporters from Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s Janata Dal. Since the law forbade defection by making it obligatory for a legislator crossing the floor to resign, it was called a split in which one-third of the MPs broke away from the parent party.

Earlier, at the height of the Janata Party’s massive victory in the 1977 general election, Chaudhry Charan Singh pulled down the Morarji Desai Government through a split. Chandra Shekhar’s was the second defector regime at the national level. With the advent of coalition politics at the national level, the malaise of defection that spread to the Centre from Haryana, the home of ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’ politics, has retraced its steps to the states. Also, it became a tool in the hands of Union Governments to destabilise state administrations.

Thus Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi who was general secretary of the ruling party staged a veritable orgy of dismissal of governments enjoying majority support in the legislatures. First, the N.T.Rama Rao Government in Andhra Pradesh was removed by making a section of the party walk out. That it ultimately boomeranged on the perpetrators is a different matter. In Jammu and Kashmir when the Governor B.K. Nehru refused to do the dirty work, Jag Mohan replaced him. He not only dismissed the Farooq Abdullah Government but also dissolved the legislature.

The fall out of the skulduggery in the frontier state has been disastrous. It put the secessionists on a pedestal. At the same time, to assuage outraged public life, as it were, Indira Gandhi set up the Sarkaria Commission. The commission made it obligatory for the Centre to secure the concurrence of State Governments in the choice of their Governors. In the case of U.P., the incumbent Governor, T.V.Rajeshwar was imposed because Mulayam Singh would not have had the retired director of the Intelligence Bureau in the Lucknow Raj Bhavan plotting his nemesis. Especially, in the light of Rajeshwar’s record during the 1975 ‘emergency’ when he was alleged to have tried to tamper with Jagjivanram’s medical treatment. It was Buta Singh and Bihar again which earned the Government – indirectly even the President – a mouthful from the apex court.

- Syndicate Features -

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