[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1999, the Congress played a big role in toppling the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, which turned the latter very combative against the former, armed with the argument that they had imposed elections on the nation unnecessarily without being able to form an alternative government and quite rightly so. Today that very BJP is repeating the blunder committed by the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh. In 1999, rebel Mukut Mithi had led a coup of sorts to topple the Gegong Apang government. A few years after becoming chief minister, he merged his political party with the Congress. In 2003, with the help of the then NDA appointed governor, Apang was successful in overthrowing the Mukut Mithi government.
First and foremost, national parties like the BJP or the Congress should not indulge in acts of destabilisation of democratically elected State governments, as it creates a bad perception about them in the eyes of the people. Politics is all about public perception. Even as they think of toppling a State government, they should make sure that the law is taken care of before making drastic moves.
During the late 1990s and the early part of the last decade, only a third of MLAs were required to split a political party. Now when 2/3rd of the legislators’ strength is required in order to enforce a split, the intricacies only get tougher. How could the governor even allow a Session to be convened, whether inside or outside the Assembly premises, when the dissident faction of the Congress could not even garner the requisite strength?
The anti-defection law makes it clear that a party could be merged into another if at least two-thirds of its party legislators voted for the merger. The provision of splitting into a separate political group has been amended.
In the latest case concerning Arunachal Pradesh, all the basic constitutional parameters were violated and the trust vote looked unconstitutional from the outset. Now when the Centre has recommended imposition of President’s Rule in the State on the basis of Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa’s recommendation, President Pranab Mukherjee smartly asked for a clarification from the Home Ministry. He might have had apprehensions after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the dissolution of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha in 2005, which was termed unconstitutional by the apex court. The president only signed the Cabinet recommendation when Home Minister Rajnath Singh clarified that the governor had recommended imposition of Article 356 in the State citing the failure of its law-and-order situation, resulting in the breakdown of constitutional machinery in the province bordering China. This puts the onus back on the Centre.
The BJP was also very critical of the Congress when the latter had ‘poached’ BJP MLAs in Goa in order to cut short the Manohar Parrikar government’s tenure in 2005. That the Congress could not succeed in getting the required number of dissident MLAs to enforce a merger post-defection of those MLAs is a different story altogether; they were successful in asking the dissenters to resign, which reduced the then Parrikar government to minority one. That brought a constitutional crisis in the State. Consequently, President’s Rule was imposed on the State. This necessitated by-polls. The Congress managed to win most of those vacated seats; the Pratap Singh Rane government was formed thereafter. In this entire episode, one cannot overlook the misuse of the governor’s office.
Back in Arunachal Pradesh, political managers of the BJP are not merely making a mockery of democracy; they are also coming across as ham-handed. When the party can’t gather the number to beat the anti-defection law, it should at least ensure that the dissident MLAs who are on their side resign — like the Congress had done in Goa. Politics is the art of making the impossible possible and a party with 282 LS MPs looks inept at doing so.
In the case in hand, the BJP has given all the ammunition in the hands of the judiciary to get flayed by the judges. This entire episode appears like a personal battle between Governor Rajkhowa and deposed Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.