Congress Has No Moral Right To Criticise NDA
Governors Of Goa And Manipur Did No Wrong
By M. Venkaiah Naidu
The hue and cry being raised by the Congress over government formations by the BJP-led coalitions in Goa and Manipuris totally unjustified as the Governors inboth the States had only followed time-tested tradition of inviting whoever commands the majority, be it the single largest party or pre-poll alliance or post-poll combination in the respective States.
Generally, while examining the claim of any party or coalitions to form government at the Centre or in the States in the wake of a hung verdict, the President and the Governors not only look at the numbers, but also the ability of the party or the coalition to form a stable government and ask it to prove majority on the floor of the House within a stipulated time. Normally, the Governor after satisfying himself/ herself about the ability to provide stable governance invites either a coalition or a single largest party to form the government.
This has been the convention and it is unfortunate that the Congress is unnecessarily finding fault with the action of Governors in both Goa and Manipur.
What is more galling is the Congress party’s baseless charge against the BJP of murdering democracy and misusing the office of Governors. In both the States, the Governors had invited the BJP-led coalitions because they had the required numbers, while nobody else came forward to stake claim for government formation.The Governors went by the book and not by anybody else’s diktats as used to be the case most of the times when the Congress was helm at the Centre.
The Congress demand that it should be invited in spite of having only 17 MLAs as against 21 legislators supporting Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar clearly reflects its intention to promote horse-trading, create anarchy and destabilize the BJP-led coalition.When the single largest party without having majority support is invited to form the government, it will open the floodgates for inducements and provide an undue advantage to the government to lure MLAs and completely throttle democracy.
In the first place, the Congress party has no moral right to cry foul after having dismissed legitimately elected non-Congress governments umpteen times and installed puppet regimes whenever it ruled at the Centre. Of course the difference then and now is that the Governors in both Goa and Manipur had not violated the Constitution in any manner and had only discharged their duty in an unblemished manner. It appears that the Congress leaders are suffering from selective amnesia. Perhaps, their collective memory needs to be refreshed by recalling that the Congress murdered democracy no less than a record 91 times by dismissing non-Congress governments.
Since the first time when Article 356 was used in 1951, President’s rule was imposed on 111 occasions in all. But Congress takes the cake for its blatant misuse—it was imposed on 45 occasions when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, seven times during premiership of Jawaharlal Nehru, six times when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, 10 times when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister and on 11 occasions during P V Narasimha Rao’s tenure as Prime Minister.
There have been instances when President’s rule was imposed for purely political reasons due to internal squabbles in the party rather any genuine constitutional breakdown.
The most brazen display of the hunger for power by Mrs. Indira Gandhi was seen in 1984 when the charismatic NTR was dismissed on August 15, just a day after he returned from the United States after undergoing a bypass surgery. Shocked by this murder of democracy, the entire opposition rallied around and organized agitations while the national and international media castigated Mrs. Gandhi, even as NTR paraded the MLAs before the President in Delhi to prove that the majority of the legislators were with him. Finally, Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, who was sworn in as Chief Minister in spite of not having MLAs, had to resign and NTR was reinstated. I have quoted this because it was one of the most sordid episodes of Indian democracy and the outrage it evoked both nationally and internationally has no parallel.
When the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited the BJP, which was the single largest party, he was vilified. Following a hung Parliament in 1998, the then President K. R. Narayanan outlined the principles that needed to be followed in such a situation. Here I would like to quote the relevant portion from a communiqué issued by Rashtrapathi Bhavan at that time. It was stated: When no party or pre-election alliance of parties is in a clear majority, the head of State, in India and elsewhere, gives the first opportunity to the leader of the party or combination of parties that has won the largest number of seats, subject to the PM so appointed obtaining majority support on the floor of the House within a stipulated period of time. This procedure is not, however, an all-time formula because situations can arise when MPs not belonging to the single largest party or combination can, as a collective entity, outnumber the single largest claimant. The President’s choice is pivoted on the would-be PM’s claims of commanding majority support”.
There have been many precedents when the single largest party was not invited and Governors invited coalitions. Normally, a Governor extends invitation for government formation only when he/she is satisfied that that the leader of a party or group of parties commands majority and would be in a position to prove the same in the legislature.
This aspect was also mentioned by the Committee of Governors in its report and stated that “ the Governor has to essentially satisfy himself in the first instance that the person whom he invites to form the Government commands majority support in the Legislature”…
Some years ago, Digamber Kamat was made the Chief Minister after he defected to Congress. While the BJP had 17 MLAs, including the Speaker and an MLA of the United Goans Democratic Party, the ULP had 18 members, including 15 Congress MLAs andone each from NCP, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and an independent.
In 2005, although BJP won 30 out of 81 seats in Jharkhand, the JMM leader ShibuSoren with the support of 17 MLAs of his Party and others was invited to form the Government. Similarly in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, although the National Conference had 28 MLAs, the Governor invited the PDP & Congress combination of 15 + 21 MLAs to form the Government.
In 2013, the BJP won 32 seats in Delhi, but the 28-member Aam Aadmi Party with the support of Congress was invited to form the Government. Other precedents of similar nature happened in 1952 (Madras), 1967 (Rajasthan) and 1982 (Haryana).
On numerous occasions, Congress governments did not respect majority and misused Governor’s position by giving chance to minority parties to prove majority.In 2005, the then Bihar Governor Buta Singh violated all democratic canons and unilaterally recommended the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly when the BJP and JD(U) came close to majority numbers. It evoked sharp criticism from the Supreme Court.
In 1998, Uttar Pradesh Governor, Romesh Bhandari dismissed the then Chief Minister Kalyan Singh without giving him an opportunity to prove his majority on floor. Only after Atal Bihari Vajpayee sat on fast-unto-death, the Government headed by Kalyan Singh was sworn. In 1988, the S R Bommai Government faced similar fate.
In 1996 polls, when BJP could not get the numbers, non-BJP parties came together and a leader with 16 MPs became the Prime Minister.
It is time for the Congress party to desist from indulging in political brinkmanship and making false accusations against the BJP, the Centre and the Governors of Manipur and Goa. It should respect the will of the MLAs who formed the coalitions, instead of crying foul and trying to create instability.