Political Setback for the Centre
Gain for the Congress not symmetrically large
The Uttarakhand High Court judgment revoking President’s rule in the state is a huge political blow to the Modiled central government and the BJP. It, however, has an asymmetrical fallout: the gain for the Opposition Congress, whose government was dismissed in Uttarakhand one day before it was to prove its majority on the floor of the House, is minor in scale compared to the political damage done to the BJP and the prime minister. The court verdict criticises the central government for violating the law and harming democracy. These add up to serious criticism of Narendra Modi, who takes pains to claim that the Constitution is the only holy book he follows as prime minister.
Considering that as many as nine of its legislative assembly members had joined the Opposition BJP to oppose the Budget, the Congress government led by Harish Rawat could not have passed the Budget with a voice vote. His government effectively stood defeated on a money Bill. However, those nine rebel MLAs, having gone against the party whip, stood disqualified as well. So, the task before the legislature was to test if Harish Rawat still retained the confidence of the House. The big mistake on the Centre’s part was to flout the norm — not disputed till the present government at the Centre started wielding Article 356, since a nine-member bench of the Supreme Court laid it down in 1993 — that the confidence of the House has to be tested on the floor of the House. The BJP has made it clear that it would challenge the high court order in the Supreme Court. There is no reason for the apex court to grant a stay on the floor test ordered for April 29 or to invalidate the high court order, since the high court judgment’s reasoning pretty much follows the Supreme Court’s on the subject.
It is moot, however, if Rawat would be able to marshal enough support in the House. His government could well fall. The sensible, democratic course then would be to hold fresh elections, to let the people, the ultimate sovereign, have a say as to who should represent them.