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HARD TASK

The Jharkhand governor, Mr M. Rama Jois, could well be at the centre of a fresh controversy over the office. On the face of it, he was right in leaving it to the state assembly to decide if the government of Mr Babulal Marandi has lost its majority. In so doing, he acted on the lines of the Supreme Court verdict in the S.R. Bommai case of 1994. But his action could be controversial in view of the fact that the government had already been defeated on a cut motion on a money bill. Mr Jois could be criticized on the ground that he has been partisan in giving a minority government a second chance to prove its majority. This is the substance of the oppositionís criticism against him. By extension, he could be accused of encouraging horse-trading which could be expected if the government hoped to muster a majority by the time it faced a vote of confidence in the assembly. There could be a fresh debate on the governorís observation that there was no ďconstitutional or legal provisionĒ to treat the passage of a cut motion on a budgetary allocation as proof of a government losing its majority. In other words, Mr Jois, himself a lawyer, was making a distinction between a cut motion on any money bill and one on the finance bill.

But Mr Jois would definitely be abusing his office if his arguments are marshalled with the objective of saving a minority government. He needs to be particularly careful to be above suspicion because of his known proximity to the sangh parivar. Unfortunately, he has given some reasons for suspecting that he has been less than fair to Mr Marandiís opponents. Not only has he not recognized the governmentís defeat on the cut motion as proof of it becoming a minority; he has not seen the oppositionís victory as proof of its ability to form an alternative government. But there is no doubt that it is a difficult position. A prompt recommendation for the imposition of presidentís rule would violate the Supreme Courtís judgment in the Bommai case in both the letter and the spirit. For the verdict also says that the governor should try all possible ways to form an alternative government in such a scenario and could recommend the Centreís rule only if all such attempts failed. As the failed attempt in 1999 by the then Bihar governor, Mr S.S. Bhandari, to impose presidentís rule in the state showed, it would be impossible for the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre to have such a decision ratified by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Mr Jois must not make Mr Bhandariís mistake.

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