by Ratnakar Tripathy
|The Arunachal Pradesh Official Seal|
In what will be seen as a landmark judgement the Supreme Court has declared the decision of the Arunachal Pradesh governor to impose president’s rule in the state on 26th January this year as ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, restoring the Congress government of Nabam Tuki back in power. According to legal experts the decision is outstandingly unequivocal in all its implications. Earlier this year the BJP took advantage of the rift within the Congress in Arunachal and forcibly moulded the chaos in its favour, in the process disregarding all constitutional norms. The Arunachal governor dismissed the government of Tuki and brought in Kalikho Pul’s government instead, a process to be reversed now under directions from the supreme legal authority of the country.
The pathetic plight of BJP may be appreciated further in the light of the scheduled launching of the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati on the 14th July, its chief slogan being ‘ Mukt Northeast’. The irony is Pul, the CM of Arunachal till date but now a former is to attend the meet along with three other CMs Sarbananda Sonowal of Assam, T R Zeliang of Nagaland and Pawan Chamling of Sikkim as well as the BJP chiefs of the eight north-eastern states. Just as the BJP made a move to consolidate its recent gains in the North East, it seems to slipping away from a position of control. The supposedly triumphal celebration will now see the entire group licking its wounds even as more and more salt is rubbed into it in the coming days. Despite the reversal the current CM Pul said yesterday “(Our) government will remain. That will be decided on the floor of the Assembly. Government runs only with the numbers. There is no threat to our government”. Even party national secretary Shrikant Sharma responded to the judgement at a press conference stating "This is a very strange order and that is why it is being studied. The person who has the majority, who is running the government presently is being asked to be in the opposition". The BJP is unlikely to give up the fight easily and may ask the Supreme Court for a review. Tuki in the meantime would make use of the flux to invite the defected Congress MLAs back into the fold. Rahul Gandhi in the meantime found his voice for once and tweeted his sarcastic reaction to the Arunachal verdict saying gleefully – ‘Thank you Supreme Court for explaining to the Prime Minister what democracy is. #ArunachalPradesh’.
The remarkable thing about the entire episode is the explicitness of the court’s instruction to the governors for all time to come. For example, the governor’s counsel was told by the bench rather categorically that ‘“the Governor is not the conscience-keeper of the Legislative Assembly” and that he had to stay away from the business of the Assembly besides steering clear of “political horse-trading”. Another example from the 331-page judgment – the happenings in Arunachal Pradesh leading to State emergency were described by the bench as a “thrashing given to the Constitution and a spanking to governance.” All this has clearly brought disgrace to a governor who acted blatantly in a partisan manner and tried to impose the will of the centre on the state. Indeed, this verdict must be counted as a landmark in the history of the Indian democracy. Despite the quasi-authoritarian drift of the Indian democracy in recent times, the major thrust of the system is still forcefully in the favour of increasing democratization of the federal system. If a similar development in Uttarakhand two months ago was a precedent, Arunachal may be seen as a confirmation of the court’s vigilance in pushing the straying elements in the political system back on track with great determination. As in Uttarakhand so in Arunachal, the decks have been cleared for the orderly and constitutionally sound conduct of democratic procedures and norms.