The imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand is the logical culmination of a series of constitutional absurdities in the hill state. The latest provocation was the decision of the Speaker to disqualify nine members of the Congress who had revolted against the Harish Rawat government. With their expulsion, the Congress would have established a majority in the House in the trial of strength, scheduled to be held on Monday. Small wonder that Governor KK Paul saw it as a clear breakdown of the constitutional system, forcing the Union Cabinet to hold an emergency meeting and recommend dismissal of the government and imposition of President’s rule under Article 356 of the Constitution. President Pranab Mukherjee also found the recommendation in accordance with the Constitution.
The present situation would not have arisen if the Speaker had allowed due process of law in the running of the Assembly. As many as 35 members had given notice to the Speaker about their intention to vote against a Bill the defeat of which would have ended the government’s tenure. Instead of allowing a division of votes as demanded, the Speaker declared the Bill to have been passed based on a controversial voice vote. It was clear that nine members of the party had joined hands with the BJP to bring down the government. Whatever be the political morality of their decision, the Chief Minister should have reconciled himself to the loss of majority. The Governor was lenient in giving him a long period to prove his majority.
Rawat should have seen the writing on the wall and quit on his own in which case he could have claimed the moral high ground. Instead, he sought to change the rules of the game in his favour by using the Speaker to disqualify the nine MLAs under the anti-defection law. As a sting operation has proved, he also tried to win over the MLAs concerned by offering them bribes. Now that the authenticity of the video has been proved, the government should order an inquiry, find out the source of the bribe amount and punish the guilty. Meanwhile, the President’s rule should be seen as a stop-gap arrangement till a popular government is formed, sooner than later.