The suspense over proposed central rule in Arunachal Pradesh continued till late on Monday as President Pranab Mukherjee was yet to give his nod to the cabinet’s recommendation.
On a day of fast-paced developments, the Congress moved the Supreme Court challenging the government’s decision that has evoked sharp criticism from the Opposition and cast a shadow on the functioning of Parliament when it sits for the crucial budget session next month.
Before a Congress delegation met the President to seek his intervention, home minister Rajnath Singh called on Mukherjee to explain the rationale behind the government’s recommendation that was sent to him on Sunday. The President is likely to seek legal opinion before giving his decision.
The Supreme Court decided to hear on January 27 the Congress plea which assumes significance as a five-judge constitution bench, headed by justice JS Khehar, is examining the scope of discretionary powers of the governor under the Constitution in convening an assembly session without the advice of the chief minister and his council of ministers.
The BJP justified the Centre’s action, saying it had to intervene because the crisis in Arunachal Pradesh amounted to violation of the Constitution’s Article 174(1) which prescribes that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of a state legislative assembly.
Party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the political crisis was triggered by the Congress’s internal conflict.
But senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal countered that the Gauhati high court had recently held valid the session that was conducted at a community hall in Itanagar on December 16. “That is the position of BJP and the governor before the Supreme Court and the high court. So, if they feel that the session was validly held, then how can they (Centre) impose President’s rule. This is a contradiction in itself,” he said.
Stung by the move, the Congress has declared an “all-out war against the trampling of the Constitution” by the Narendra Modi government and also sought to rally round all non-BJP parties against the move in and outside Parliament.
In a series of tweets, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said the move is a “blatant” bid to topple an elected government and that his party will fight the “attack” on the Constitution. “Modiji, you talk about federalism but murder democracy. You talk about cooperation but use every means to coerce,” he said.
At the AICC briefing, Sibal charged the government with not being interested in smooth functioning of the budget session and has, therefore, taken such a decision which reflected its policy of “coercive federalism”.
He came down hard on governors with an RSS background appointed by the Centre alleging that they have “trivialised the high office by acting as Pracharaks of RSS and have been tasked to destabilise all non-BJP led governments through the office of the governor. “Arunachal Pradesh is just one such example,” he said.
Sibal cited controversial statements of governors Kesari Nath Tripathi of West Bengal, Ram Naik of Uttar Pradesh, Tathagat Roy of Tripura, Kalyan Singh of Rajasthan, PB Acharya of Assam and Vajubhai Vala of Karnataka to drive home his point.
The Congress, which has 47 MLAs in the 60-member assembly, suffered a jolt when 21 of them rebelled and 11 BJP MLAs backed the rebels in the bid to upstage the Nabam Tuki government. Later, 14 rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified.
The governor then called an assembly session on December 16 in which the deputy speaker revoked disqualification of 14 rebel Congress MLAs and removed Speaker Nabam Rebia.
(With inputs from Agencies)