By Shyam Khosla
The Supreme Court'sindictment of the Union Council of Ministers for treating Governor Buta Singh'srecommendation to dissolve Bihar Assembly in May last year as gospel truth is yet another stunning blow to the Prime Minister'simage of a gentleman politician committed to constitutional proprieties and probity in public life. While sharply criticising Governors? report as ?hasty, drastic and extreme?, the Apex Court took strong exception to the Union Cabinet'sfailure to verify the contents of the Governor'sreport. All said and done, the Governor only recommended but the final decision to dissolve the House that had not met even once was that of the Centre. The UPA Government stand indicted for the midnight drama. The Cabinet met around midnight to accept the Governor'srecommendation and the Prime Minister personally spoke to the President who was then on a state visit to Moscow to get his assent to the notification. The court'sobservation that the documents placed before the President were not sufficient to justify the dissolution of the House is a subtle criticism of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It has acutely embarrassed the President who is naturally very upset. The wily Governor has added to the President'sdeep hurt by brazenly refusing to gracefully put in his papers.
The Government can'twash its hands off the grave constitutional impropriety – the court said the dissolution was unconstitutional – by apportioning the entire blame on the Governor. The Governor is guilty and unworthy of the high constitutional office to which he was appointed presumably for services rendered to the party. Buta Singh is a loyal Congressman who is ever willing to do dirty work at the behest of the party and its leader. He was the person who was assigned the criminal task of bribing JMM members of Parliament to save the minority Government led by P.V. Narasimaha Rao. That eventually he and Rao got away with the crime is a sad commentary on our criminal justice system. The Governor'sdefiant assertion that he was not quitting and that he would take the salute at the Republic Day parade at Patna is a gross contempt of court and totally unacceptable from a constitutional authority. Why is he behaving like this? One obvious reason is that commitment to constitutionalism is not Buta Singh'sforte. Yet another plausible explanation can be that he is not willing to be made a scapegoat for a constitutional crime he committed at the instance of some one high up in the Congress and the Government. Popular perception is that the Governor acted on ?orders from above? to prevent NDA staking claim to form the Government in Bihar. He wants them to share the punishment for the crime or at least cause embarrassment to those who supposedly used him for their partisan interests.
The UPA Government can'twash its hands off the grave constitutional impropriety?the court said the dissolution was unconstitutional?by apportioning the entire blame on the Governor. The Governor is guilty and unworthy of the high constitutional office to which he was appointed presumably for services rendered to the party.
Buta Singh is not the only Governor appointed by the Congress-led Government that has shown utter disregard to constitutional norms and democratic procedures. They resorted to unethical and amoral means to dislodge the BJP Government in Goa. The Jharkhand Governor behaved in such a brazenly unconstitutional manner that the Supreme Court had to pass strictures against him. The court was so outraged that it went out of its way to effectively intervene to ensure that the party and the alliance that had the majority support should form the Government. In sharp contrast to the partisan role played by Governors appointed by UPA, the Karnataka Governor who was appointed by the NDA Government, acted as per strict constitutional norms by giving nine days to the Congress-led Government to prove its majority in the Assembly. T N Chaturvedi is not an exception so far as Governors appointed by the BJP-led Government are concerned. Most of them, including Sunder Singh Bhandari, Bhai Mahavir, and Kedar Nath Sahani, set shining examples of probity, dignity and constitutional propriety. The contrast speaks volumes about political values of NDA and UPA. The Supreme Court'sobservation that a political consensus should be evolved regarding norms for appointment of governors is in order. What is more important is the kind of persons the Government of the day chooses for the job. Experience has shown that though there are politicians who behave irresponsibly even while they occupy high constitutional offices but there is no dearth of politicians who are committed to constitutional norms and fair play. It is not fair to condemn the entire political class.
The Congress party has a dismal track record on probity in public life. Even after Bofors scandal consumed Rajiv Gandhi Government, the party didn'tlearn any lesson. The Rao Government that survived by winning over parliamentary support by offering cash will go down in history as one of the most corrupt dispensations. Initially, Dr. Manmohan Singh raised high hopes that he would set high standards in following constitutional norms and fighting corruption in high places. He has proved to be a disaster on both the counts. His handling of the Food-for-Oil scam badly dented his image. He issued a clean chit to Natwar Singh but had to ease him out of the Government under public pressure. His assertion that he was not in the knowledge of what the Law Ministry did in de-freezing London bank accounts of Mr. Q showed him in an extremely poor light. His personal honesty is not in doubt but his commitment and ability to fight corruption is suspect.