What an ignominious exit

By K.N. Pandita

Congress has its patent antics of making scapegoats and passing the buck on.

Buta Singh has been a Congress activist for the whole of his life. How can one become Mr. non-partisan over night more so when the same party had catapulted him into the seat of the Governor to which he owed allegiance and which was in power at the centre?

His functioning has been controversial nay partial from the very outset of his tenure as Governor. In fact he found his counterfoil in Mr. Sibte Rizvi who had been censured by the President for misuse of his high office in somewhat similar manner. Why Buta Singh refused to learn something by that episode is intriguing. There can be only one explanation that Congress is too arrogant a party to run the country in strict adherence to the demands of democracy.

Who can refute the premise that Governor Buta Singh consulted New Delhi before finalising his report on the dissolution of Bihar Assembly? He knew that if he chose to go by the ground reality, as it existed at that point of time, he would be landing in great trouble. What had motivated Buta Singh to play with his constitutional duty and obligation was his deep interest in preserving his position. What motivated the Council of Ministers to rush in wild haste to the doorsteps of the President at midnight was their recklessness in blocking the chance of a non-Congress majority in the assembly staking claims for the formation of a government.

Now that the Supreme Court has come out with a scathing criticism of the manner in which the Governor and the \union government handled the matter, the Congress has found it easy to make a scapegoat of Buta Singh. There are not buyers of the theory that he misled the Union cabinet.

The fact of the matter is that it is the Union Cabinet that misled the President, the parliament and the nation. Yet despite all this, the Union Cabinet has very brazenly passed on the buck and is now content with the statement that the Governor’s report carried weight.

This episode gives rise to both constitution; as well as ethical aspects of our democratic structure. The first question that attains great importance and ought to be debated in all intellectual circles in the country is whether a person with a life career in a particular political party should be the Governor? Can impartiality and justice be expected from him?

This also brings in another aspect of the whole issue. Is not the opposition justified in disrupting the sessions and the proceedings of the parliament/assembly when such gross violation of constitutional propriety is noticed?

The second question is this: Is there no role for the silent majority, the patriotic and law abiding civil society in such a situation where the representative of the Head of the State is showing callous disregard for constitutional propriety? Should the civil society remain a silent spectator and leave such important matters to the whims and fancies of editorials of newspapers many of who are insensitive to their professional responsibilities?

Evidently, the union cabinet cannot absolve itself of the responsibility it carries of giving a clean and honest administration to the nation. The cabinet could have handled the matter with more discretion, statesmanship and without infringing the constitutional obligation. \it could have waited till the President returned from his tour abroad. It could have asked expert legal opinion outside the cabinet. It could have recommended the summoning of the Governor for a crucial exposition of the ground situation in Bihar.

We do not say that the Prime Minister should have consulted the leader of the opposition and preferably the components of the UPA government on non-official level also. Any ruling political coalition that really cared for cementing the constitutional basis of the Indian nation would have certainly taken the opposition into confidence even if it doing so had no precedent.

The fact is that the situation in Bihar was extraordinary. That had been demonstrated by the rather drastic treatment, which the EC had to mete out to those who wanted to trivialize the election process. The law and order situation in the state was tenuous. As such it was only in the fitness of things that the union government took the opposition into confidence. Alas that did not happen.

The government in Bihar will go on with its tenure but the whole nation must sit down and ponder what lessons this unique episode has brought us. We need constitutional remedy for such happenings and we need moral standards resurrected if we want that our democracy should become strong and pervasive. The nation and its leading political parties have to learn from the ignominious exit of Bihar Governor.

The End.

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