Updated: January 27, 2016 12:26:13 am
It is unfortunate that the Centre has ignored President Pranab Mukherjee’s words of caution and imposed president’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh, ironically on Republic Day. When a Constitution bench of the SC is set to hear a petition related to the political crisis in the state, the Centre ought to have waited. The hasty action goes against the grain of PM Narendra Modi’s promise of cooperative federalism. Devolution of an increased share of Central taxes and removal of overbearing institutions like the Planning Commission were consistent with this approach. The latest move, however, is a throwback to the Indira Gandhi era, when the Centre would lean on suppliant governors to dismiss governments run by opposition parties.
The crisis in Arunachal Pradesh began last November after a group of Congress MLAs rebelled against CM Nabam Tuki. It turned into a constitutional breakdown after Governor J.P. Rajkhowa, in a clear case of gubernatorial overreach, advanced the winter session of the assembly and issued directions to vote on a resolution calling for the removal of the speaker at the first sitting of the House. The Gauhati HC initially stayed the governor’s decision. When it vacated the stay, the speaker moved the SC, which has referred the case to a Constitution bench. Arunachal Pradesh has a history of politicians switching sides or splitting parties for office. This lack of political fidelity among legislators can undermine the democractic practice in the state and lead to a crisis of faith among the electorate. The instability in Arunachal is a cause for worry, but political parties should not let short-term gains dictate their priorities in a state that shares a long, disputed border with China. There are clearly laid out procedures to settle disputes over House majority. Moreover, constitutional heads ought to stay away from political manipulations.
Mukherjee has been thrust into the role of the nation’s conscience keeper by circumstances in recent times. His remarks on rising intolerance in the country even guided Modi’s response to the issue in the past. Modi himself has acknowledged the president’s references in his speeches, especially regarding constitutional morality and the importance of respecting norms and traditions established by Parliament. He ought to have listened to Mukherjee’s wise words on the Arunachal issue as well.
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