There is no doubt that the Indian National Congress (INC) party has had a significant role in the making of post independent India. In 1947 an India reeling from the tragedy of partition transitioned under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel amongst others to become the world’s largest constitutional democracy. The early decades went into building institutions that recognised India’s plurality of identities and furthered equitable economic development. In the recent past, decisions from the liberalisation reforms of 1991 to the democratisation of institutions made possible through the Right to information Act 2005 continue to define the Indian citizen’s destiny.
In May of 2014, the Indian National Congress suffered a devastating loss winning only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. This happened for two important reasons: first; being the alleged charges of corruption and the government’s nexus with big money and the second; the rise of an emerging non-Congress leader who promised to fulfil the aspirations of an increasingly urbanising population.
Now in March of 2017, it seems that the Congress party might fail to form Government even in States where it has managed to be the single largest party. The two states of Goa and Manipur have seen the Congress party win 17 of the 40 seats while in the latter state the party has gotten 28 of the 60 seats. Needing 4 more seats to form Government in Goa and 3 more to do the same in Manipur.
First to the turn of events in Manipur where the BJP managed 21 seats but within 48 hours had the support of 33 MLAs to form the Government. The Congress party couldn’t convince a single MLA to join their ranks. In fact, one of their own defected to the BJP.
In Manipur the swiftness with which the BJP managed to get MLAs to form a majority is no surprise at all as the National People’s Party and Naga Peoples Front with four seats each are allies of the BJP at the centre. Once it was clear that the BJP was heading towards a majority, the chance of MLAs risking giving support to the Congress vanished. The three-time Chief Minister of the state seemed helpless and quietly resigned. Within days the BJP not only got the numbers but also projected a former congressman as their Chief Minister candidate.
The events in Goa turned out to be slightly more curious. With not a single exit poll giving the INC a chance, yet the Congress produced a remarkable victory which saw the sitting Chief Minister losing his constituency and further saw the defeat of 6 BJP minister. With the INC requiring only 4 seats to form a majority, it seemed on the day of the results (11th March 2017) that the Congress might form the Government.
However, the Governor against constitutional convention gave the single largest party (INC) a go by and on 12th March 2017 invited the BJP to prove majority and form Government. In the space of 24 hours Manohar Parrikar not only resigned as Defence minister but was also appointed as the Chief Minister of Goa! Anchors on television were falling over each other hailing this quick unfurling of events as BJP’s show of “hunger for power” without wondering even once on the constitutional role of the Governor or the blunt rejection of the people’s mandate that voted the BJP out of power. As Fali Nariman pointed out it “is not who rushes quickest to the Governor but by convention of our constitution it is the party which has the peoples mandate that should be asked first”.
In the view of such events on 14.03.2017 ,the Congress party approached the Supreme Court challenging the invitation by the Governor (Mridula Sinha) to Parrikar, some of the important legal grounds that come up for discussion are :-
- That as per the Justice M. Punchhi commission report on “constitutional Governance and the Management of Centre state relations” held that constitutional convention holds that in view of the fact that there is no pre-poll alliance and it is clear that one party has the highest number of seats the Governor must invite the party with the highest number of seats to prove his strength to form the Government. In fact the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in sitting in a constitution bench in the judgement of Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh and others (2016) 8 SCC 1 relied heavily on both the aforementioned commission reports in discussing the role and power of the Governor under the constitutional scheme. However in the case of Goa on 12th March 2017 the Governor without the slightest hesitation bypassed the single largest party and consulted the BJP and subsequently went on to appoint Parrikar as Chief Minister.
- In the landmark judgement of Bommai vs Union of India (1994) 3 SCC 1 a constitution bench of 9 judges reiterated that federalism was part of the basic structure of the constitution. In the case of Goa, the Congress party has argued that the Centre actively interfered in an arbitrary manner to insure the formation of a BJP Government in the state. This was against the constitutional ideals of a federal democracy. It is no secret that within hours the Central Government had dispatched its Defence Minister to take oath as Chief Minister in Goa!
- That the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India sitting in a constitution bench in Ramwshwar Prasad vs Union of India (2006) 2 SCC 1 recognized the recommendations of the Sarkaria commission (1983) stating that the Governor must display the qualities of impartiality and sagacity so as to uphold the sanctity of the position of the Governor in the constitution. The INC has argued that the Governor has acted arbitrarily and against constitutional convention. It is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court in Manoj Narula vs Union of India 2014 (9) SCC 1 held that constitutional morality holds that constitutional conventions must be recognised and respected. In this case, it was the Governor’s constitutional obligation to go by the convention of recognising the peoples mandate.
On 14th March 2017, the Supreme Court decided to interfere but only to a limited extent. The Hon’ble Apex Court passed an order stating that the Floor Test must be held urgently and issued an order stating that on 16.03.2017 the Government must prove its majority on the floor of the house.
Within 24 hours we will know the result, it takes no constitutional expert to know that the peoples mandate must be respected. However, we now are in a time when the Congress party has not been able to communicate to the people the importance of their very own existence. The public narrative is with the BJP and it seems irrespective of the mandate the house shall also belong to the BJP.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.