The impact of the Supreme Court’s Wednesday verdict restoring the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh will be felt not only in the northeastern state but also in Delhi, especially during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
The restoration of the Congress governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh by the top court in a span of just two months is a big blow to the ruling BJP at the Centre and brings hope to the Congress of a consolidation of opposition parties.
The jubilation in the Congress camp following the scrapping of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand on May 11 was short-lived as the party suffered a huge setback in the following week, losing Assam to the BJP and Kerala to the Left.
Awed by the BJP’s historic debut in Assam and the principal opposition party’s continuing downslide in the recent round of assembly polls, most regional parties seemed to be gravitating towards the ruling dispensation at the Centre.
The court ruling turned the tables on Wednesday.
“We said it earlier. The government erred in Arunachal Pradesh,” said Bhartruhari Mehtab, a senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and veteran parliamentarian.
Asked if his party will make the SC ruling an issue in the monsoon session, he told Hindustan Times, “Definitely.” And this came from a party perceived to be friendly with the BJP, at least in terms of its support to the government’s legislative agenda.
Crucial assembly elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, are slated early next year and the NDA is likely to face combined opposition from an array of regional parties in Parliament.
Until Wednesday, the Congress seemed isolated as even the Left looked inclined to ditch it in its opposition to the Constitution Amendment Bill for rolling out the goods and services tax.
The isolation forced senior Congress leaders to re-visit their stance on the so-called GST bill and tone down their rhetoric against capping the GST rate in the Constitution bill only.
It’s difficult to predict whether the party’s ‘victory’ in Arunachal will mean a return to intransigence on this issue.
If regional parties rally around the Congress on the misuse of Article 356 by the NDA and their coordination goes beyond this issue, it might jeopardise the government’s agenda in the monsoon session.
Politically, the Congress stands to gain from Wednesday’s verdict in poll-bound Manipur where dissident MLAs were said to be in touch with the BJP to topple the Okram Ibobi Singh government.
Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh has been accusing the BJP of trying to destabilise his government.
The two Congress CMs may now feel secure with the latest judicial verdict likely to check what the opposition party believes is the BJP’s tendency to further its “Congress-Mukt Bharat” agenda.
At the July 16 meeting of the Inter-State Council, the Centre wants to discuss Centre-state relations in the context of now-forgotten MM Punchhi Commission report.
The commission made many several recommendations that empowers the Centre to play an overarching role in matters falling under the domain of states.
One of the recommendations was that governors should have a fixed tenure and the chief ministers should also have a say in their appointment. After the Arunachal verdict, the NDA government might not be inclined to push this agenda.
After the court verdict against the Centre on President’s Rule in Uttarakhand last May, the BJP sought to counter the Congress, citing its track record.
Article 356 has been invoked more than 120 times since Independence, mostly by Congress governments. During Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership, this provision was used 50 times. After the latest rap by the judiciary, even this line of argument by the BJP might not convince many.