It’s high time New Delhi sees the writing on the wall and mend its ways. The Supreme Court has in no certain terms asked the Centre to learn a lesson or two in governance. Dealing with petitions on the constitutionality of decisions taken in Maharashtra and Delhi, the apex court has cautioned on the Governor and the Lt Governor’s functioning respectively. In the national capital, the AAP had a major victory. A five-member constitution bench in a unanimous verdict put the lid on an 8-year running battle Chief Minister Kejriwal has had with Union Home Ministry and its appointed LGs, ruling that Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over services except for public order, police and land.The Ministry’s notification asserting its control over services, was thus nullified, as the court noted the NCT administration is unlike other UTs and has been “accorded a ‘sui generis’ (unique) status by the Constitution; an elected government needs to have control over bureaucrats, failing which the principle of collective responsibility will be adversely affected.’ Plus, it’s in spirit of cooperative federalism that the Centre must exercise its powers within boundaries created and can’t subsume NCTD in unit of the Union merely because it’s not a ‘State’.
An upbeat AAP reacted: ‘Delhi wins’; order is a ‘tight slap’ on mission to topple State governments across the country and sends a stern message that Delhi government officers are meant to serve its people through elected government and not unelected usurpers parachuted by Centre to stall governance, namely LG…”Hopefully it shall no longer have to cry foul that IAS or Joint Cadre services, were not carrying out its orders.It can quote the court: “civil servants are accountable to ministers and they, in turn, are accountable to Parliament or State legislatures”; division of administrative powers between Union and Delhi government “must be respected”; LG is bound by aid and advice of Council of Delhi ministers viz legislative matters of city government; ‘administration’ with regard to LG powers can’t be understood as ‘entire administration of Delhi, otherwise, the purpose of giving powers to a constitutionally recognised and democratically elected government would be diluted’. Having got a breather, AAP government has got cracking. Hours after the Thursday verdict, it removed Secretary, Services Dept. Rest assured this is just the beginning!
Rap on Maha Governor
Likewise, dealing with a number of petitions viz Maharashtra’s political crisis leading to fall of Thackeray-led MVA government, the Supreme Court noted “Governor of a State is not empowered to enter the political arena and play a role in inter-party or intra-party disputes,” and the discretion exercised by then Governor Koshyari asking then Chief Minister Uddhav to face a floor test was “not in accordance with law”. This, as the Governor had “no objective material” on which he could doubt the incumbent dispensation had lost House’s confidence. The Constitutionempowers elected representatives to act on behalf of people and, consequently, the Governor, who despite his constitutional status is unelected, is vested with ‘limited discretionary powers.’ While Thackeray says it’s a moral victory, his decision to resign without a floor test is bound to haunt him. For the court held Governor’s decision inviting Eknath Shinde to form a new government ‘was justified since Thackeray had resigned without a trial of strength.’ At the same time, the court has asked the Speaker to deal with the disqualification of 16 MLAs issues within a ‘reasonable period.’Hope for Thackeray?
The dye has been cast in Karnataka. With record 73.19% voter turnout, the countdown begins today—will this southern State keep its 38-year-old tradition of voting out the incumbent party, the BJP and give a boost to a beleaguered Congress. So far, neither are ‘heading for a majority’ (113 seats of the 224 Assembly) and the State may have a hung Assembly, as predicted by 7 of 10 exit polls! Plus, JD(S) could be ‘kingmaker’ again. The Congress desperately needs a majority with a gap of at least 30 seats given that BJP will pounce on the smaller numbersto cross over the fence, as seen in other States. Though all eyes will be on the losers and winners, Congress’ complaint to ECI needs attention. It has accused Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders of ‘brazen, deliberate and calculated violation’ of the MCC and provisions of RPA, 195: On 9 May, Modi addressed the public via a video message, wherein he appealed to the voters after the ‘silence period’ (all campaign activities seize) since 6 p.m. on 8 May; live interviews of Home MinisterShah and BJP PresidentNadda, were aired on News18 India wherein they spoke extensively about thepolls/respective candidates! It’s a litmus test for the ECI to exercise its constitutional duty under Article 324 and hold those in power accountable and ‘not be intimidated by the high offices that they hold,’is the Congress’ appeal. Great pity if it gets lost in the heat and dust of victory celebrations.
Manipur’s Violent Divide
Has the ruling BJP stirred a hornet’s nest in Manipur? The answer is in the affirmative as experts predict or rather fear it will take years for peace and normalcy to return in this north-eastern States. Multiple fault lines are coming alive between the dominant Meitei community in the Valley and 34 tribal groups in the hills, primarily under Kuki and Naga tribes. The trigger for the violent clashes since May 3, which have left 60 killed, 231 injured and 1,700-odd houses burnt was a prickly court order that boosted the Meiteis demand to be given Scheduled Tribe status to protect their “ancestral land, traditions, culture and language”. However, the tribal groups fear if Meiteis are given ST status, then jobs of Kuki community will be at risk. The Centre did well by sending Central forces but despite Biren’s appeal the situation is tense. On Thursday last, one cop was killed, and four others injured in firing by suspected terrorists in Bishnupur district, 50 km south of Imphal. The government is unable to bring about a truce between the warring parties, as the ethnic, religious and geographic divides are deeply entrenched. Worse, it didn’t give importance to the tribes demands, which has stirred sentiments. The violence from both sides in retaliation in the Valley and hills unfortunately will take the State back many years. It will take a lot more than just confidence-building measures.
BJD To Go ‘Solo’
Odisha doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. On Thursday last Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik minced no words and announced he wasn’t going to join the Opposition bandwagon against the BJP and would go solo in 2024 polls. No eyebrows need to be raised as that is what BJD has done ‘always’, he justified, and nothing should be read in between the lines with his meeting with JD(U) leader and Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar 48 hours earlier. A ‘courtesy call.’ He made the announcement after a meeting in Delhi with Prime Minister Modi, wherein he raised developmental issues such as the Sri Jagannath Airport, incomplete national highways and opening of bank branches in Gram Panchayat for his State. As CM since 2000, Patnaik has kept BJD at an ‘equidistant’ from both Congress and BJP, though sometimes going along with the latter, as noticed in Parliament. On the possibility of a ‘third front’ emerging, Patnaik said “No, not as far as I’m concerned, not now”. Clearly disappointing parties trying to forge an anti-BJP and non-Congress alliance. But then as said: “Naveen Patnaik always does whatever is in his interest. If he thinks that joining the third front will help him, he might do so and if he thinks it won’t, he will not join it.”Indication enough of what is to follow in 2024? —-INFA