The Tyranny of the Unelected
It must be remembered that the last session of Parliament began with a three day tribute to the Indian Constitution. The Prime Minister himself spoke (at length) about the bedrock of democracy upheld by our Constitution and rededicated his Government to protecting the values enshrined in this great document. Alas, as is the unfortunate trend with this Government, this commitment was only in empty words. Barely two months have passed and the Central Government has participated in what can only be described as, a clandestine and sustained undermining not just of the Constitution, but of the very idea of democracy. All with the objective of wresting power in the State of Arunachal Pradesh. It is ironic that the events came to a close right around Republic Day.
In short, a crisis was manufactured and supported by the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh to dissolve the existing Congress Government and install in its place, a BJP led one. In measures completely unsanctioned by law and the Constitution, the Governor advanced the upcoming Assembly Session, unilaterally set the agenda to remove the Speaker and did so in the exercise of a power that is anathema to Constitutional principles and position of Governor. It must be noted that for none of these discussions did the Governor act on the aid & advice of Chief Minister or the Cabinet, which is the constitutional mandate. This was followed by other brazen actions on the part of the Governor to declare an emergency. Thereafter, in this continuing series of violations, the Governor’s report has now been leaked to the media even before placing it before Supreme Court. While transparency is essential in Governance, the manner in which the report has been leaked does not behove that of a Constitutional Office or Home Ministry especially while the matter is pending in the Supreme Court of India. Perhaps, back to back electoral loss prompted a Government, fast dwindling in popularity, to take these desperate measures. But whatever the reason two things became alarmingly clear; The Tyranny of the Unelected First, the sheer illegality of the steps taken by the Governor are worrisome. It was almost as if the objective was to destabilise the Government at all costs.
There is no Article in the Constitution which authorises such measures. In this context the genuineness of this measure becomes supremely doubtful. The actions of the Governor have been repeatedly criticised as unable to pass Constitutional muster and also in violation of directions laid down, by the Supreme Court in Union of India v Valluri Basavaiah Chowdhury (limits on the Governors power to issue messages under Article 175 as was done in this case). None of this has bothered the Governor who has acted with the speed and certainty of a man possessed. Second, In this regard, this entire episode brings to light the degree to which Constitutional Offices have been packed with individuals who are mindful only of their obligation to the Centre, not to the Constitution. This is a dangerous trend and one that cannot survive judicial or democratic scrutiny. The fact that the individual subjugated the high office of the Governor to serve the narrow political will of the Central Government is a telling commentary on this Government’s vision for cooperative federalism.
Much had changed since this Government came to power. It is clear now that they will never, even remotely, be able to live up to the tall promises they made. What is worse, to the point of being unforgivable, is the attempt to dismantle constitutional institutions. But what else can be inferred, other than hypocrisy, when the PM speaks of respect for federalism and states being an equal part of “Team India” while simultaneously engaging in such an insidious exercise. However, on one thing Modiji was correct: Our Constitution and the institutions it sets in place are far too strong to fall prey to the whims and caprices of a Government driven by a need to capture power at all costs. It is more than capable of withstanding these tyrannical advances. Nonetheless, for a Prime Minister keen on forging a legacy these kinds of measures should be political anathema. Sadly, they are the norm. History is being written and it is not flattering.
(The author is an In-charge, Communications Department, AICC)