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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Winning game: Puducherry conundrum

People’s wishes or democratic principles of legislature formation had never been pressing concerns for the BJP

The Editorial Board Published 26.02.21, 02:13 AM
V Narayanasamy leaves after attending the special Assembly session in Puducherry.

V Narayanasamy leaves after attending the special Assembly session in Puducherry. PTI

The erosion of principles in politics makes laws meaningless. The provision for president’s rule and the anti-defection law have been repeatedly used — or not used — to mask frank tussles for power. The hollowness of the anti-defection law is now starkly evident. The resignation of the chief minister of Puducherry, V. Narayanasamy, marks the untimely fall of another Congress government during Bharatiya Janata Party-led rule at the Centre. Resignations of Congress members from the assembly allowed the Opposition, of which the Bharatiya Janata Party is a part, to overtake the Congress in numbers. Advantage BJP. But with assembly elections in the Union territory to come soon, the BJP seems to be careful about perceptions. It won no seats in the 2016 assembly elections, but nominated three members in the assembly as a provision allows the Centre to have nominated members in a UT legislature. That was legal, but not ethical: the people did not want the BJP. But the removal of a lieutenant-governor hostile to the chief minister and the induction of a Tamil-speaking — thus linguistically sympathetic — lieutenant-governor might divert charges of toppling an elected government. Resignations rather than direct changeovers to the BJP could look good too.

People’s wishes or democratic principles of legislature formation had never been pressing concerns for the BJP; Goa, Manipur, Karnataka and some other governments would have been different then. The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution or the anti-defection law was intended to keep governments stable by preventing legislators from switching sides. Only when two-thirds of legislators in a party merged with another could disqualification be avoided. What happens, however, is that the bar to switching sides is quite openly subjected to various tricks in favour of the more powerful party at any time. Resignations are common — rewards come to those who wait a bit. Delay in disqualifying defectors by the presiding officer in a legislature can also be to a waiting party’s advantage. The frequent fall of non-BJP governments in the most recent phase of India’s history is a painful exhibition of the law’s toothlessness. Re-drafting it by plugging its loopholes — these are many — may save it from derision. But it is only principled politics, scruples among elected representatives and their urge to keep the people’s faith that will make a difference.

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