B Singh or M Singh?

BY darius| IN Opinion | 30/01/2006
The leader writers could not decide who was more to blame for the Bihar dissolution fiasco.


You don`t say!

Darius Nakhoonwala


Last week was a real tough one as far as issues go. There were so many that I found it hard to decide which was the most important. Eventually, I concluded that the Buta-Bihar-PM-Sonia affair should win.

This is not to say that the change of government in Karnataka and the manner in which it was achieved was not important. But on a scale measuring wrong-doing, I think Buta-PM-Sonia won hands down, even though both involved an overturning of the popular vote.

Indeed, in the case of Karnataka, this happened twice over: once when the Congress was voted out in 2004 and came back into government anyway on the shoulders of Deve Gowda; and now when a supposedly secular party has tied up with the BJP.

Still, subverting the Constitution is, I think, is a far more serious matter. It was not just that Buta Singh gave wrong advice; it was also that, as the Pioneer put it, the PM misled the President. Turn any which way he might, Manmohan Singh will have to explain that to history.

As the Pioneer put it, "The least that was expected after Tuesday`s detailed judgement by the Supreme Court was the immediate recall of Mr Buta Singh and an unqualified apology to the nation by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Union Government`s complicity in what has been eloquently described as an unconstitutional act based on Mr Buta Singh`s fanciful assumptions which together can destroy democracy. Instead, all that we have heard till now is Mr Manmohan Singh`s offensive and outrageous statement that "whatever the Supreme Court says, the country has to accept it".

The Hindu was equally scathing but of B Singh, rather than M Singh. "Rarely has there been a stronger indictment of a constitutional functionary and it will be impossible for either Governor Singh or the Union Government to brazen it out any longer. He should never have been Governor in the first place but after the Supreme Court`s order holding the dissolution  of the Assembly unconstitutional, his position became wholly untenable. The United Progressive Alliance Government must do the proper thing on its own and without delay, rather than react after being forced into a corner." But it did say that "the Union Council of Ministers gets off relatively lightly with the majority decision noting it should have exercised caution and not acted without verifying the contents of the two reports sent by the Governor."

The Telegraph made the point that the system was flawed if it left "important matters of state to the discretion of an individual. This is the most important lesson from the Supreme Court`s judgment on the dissolution of the Bihar assembly last May." It added that the "the minority view on the bench that absolved both the governor and the Centre of any constitutional impropriety adds to possible confusions over gubernatorial privileges."  


The Indian Express said pretty much the same thing. "A Governor`s "fanciful assumptions" cannot, and should not, be basis for executive action."  


"But if the UPA government thinks it can absolve itself of all responsibility". it added "it had better think again… the decision of the Union cabinet to rubber stamp the governor`s report and hustle President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in Moscow into signing the proclamation of dissolution — all in the course of one night — will go down as one of the more cynical moments in Indian democracy." 


It then reminded the readers of something the prime minister had said last year. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — responding to the October apex court ruling in this case, terming the Bihar assembly dissolution as "unconstitutional" — had stated that he did not "disown" his "responsibility as prime minister". We now want to know what his government plans to do in response to this judgment."  

The Deccan Herald, riveted by the change of government in Karnataka, forgot to write about the Buta affair.

contact: Darius.Nakhoonwala@gmail.com

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