The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If good and sensible governance is the basis of political culture, there is certain to be a sigh of relief at the abrupt collapse of the Mayavati government in Uttar Pradesh. It is not merely that the two coalition partners were ideologically and socially incompatible from the very outset but that there was not even an attempt to inject the alliance with a semblance of coalition dharma. The Bharatiya Janata Party was looking to the alliance as a means to getting a respectable tally in the Lok Sabha election and Ms Mayavati was hell bent on using her third term as chief minister to strengthen the Bahujan Samaj Party base. With both parties set on a very narrow and self-serving agenda, the consequences for India’s largest state were distinctly unhappy. A state overwhelmed by caste conflict, lawlessness and corruption has emerged from the experiment even more traumatized. If there was ever a case for the temporary suspension of democracy to allow citizens a respite from political madness, Uttar Pradesh is the shining example.

Yet, democracy’s tragedy cannot become the excuse for the subversion of the Constitution. The dissolution of the state assembly and fresh elections in November may well be the only way to extricate the state from another bout of instability and anarchy — and that too without any guarantee. But before Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri assumes responsibility for the administration, he should diligently go through the procedures. First, if the chief minister lost her majority before the cabinet meeting on Monday morning, Ms Mayavati’s advice to the governor to dissolve the assembly has no constitutional sanction. If Ms Mayavati wishes to continue as chief minister, she must demonstrate her majority in the assembly and the governor must set a date by which time a confidence motion must be voted on. Assuming Ms Mayavati fails to heed the advice, the governor will be within his rights to dismiss her unceremoniously, without being unduly concerned with her Dalit status. Following this, propriety demands that the governor invites the leader of the Samajwadi Party to explore the possibility of forming a government. If the Samajwadi Party fails and there is no alternative formation in sight, then the governor can contemplate dissolution. Any move to impose president’s rule without going through this constitutional ritual will be seen to be motivated by partisan concerns. Ironically, the installation of a Samajwadi Party-led government may actually suit the Centre, if only to buy time for the BJP to regain some of its political focus. It may even be a heartening case of political expediency matching constitutional imperatives.

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