The situation with regard to imposing President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh remains fluid as there is no consensus so far, let alone unanimity, among the UPA allies reflecting the difficulties that lie in proceeding with it.
As the Congress sought to bring some of its recalcitrant allies on board, Samajwadi Party's Amar Singh said his party would complain to President APJ Abdul Kalam against the proposed move to dismiss the Mulayam Singh Yadav government. He also joined issues with the Congress over the latter's charge of "unconstitutionality" of the state government and the numbers game.
A day after UP Governor TN Rajeswar sent his report to the Home Ministry saying that Mulayam Singh Yadav's decision to prove his majority on February 26 could lead to "horse trading", the CPM, the CPI, the Forward Bloc and the NCP opposed the Centre's proposal to place UP under central rule. The chief minister should be allowed to take a floor test on February 26, they said, though parties like the CPI and the NCP maintained that Mulayam should have voluntarily stepped down following the Supreme Court verdict disqualifying the 13 BSP legislators.
"If he does not, he should be given a chance to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly," said Tariq Anwar, senior NCP leader. The DMK has not spelt out its stand so far, though former Prime Minister VP Singh is believed to be working on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi as well as the CPM leadership. The RJD is in tune with the Congress on the issue and Ram Vilas Paswan, who was in Manipur, could not be contacted.
But the strongest objection came from the CPM that did not share the Congress' perception or interpretation of the Supreme Court verdict. The judgement, according to Union Minister Kapil Sibal, established the "illegality and unconstitutionality" of the Mulayam regime and the Bommai case of a floor test was not applicable in this case since the segregation of the 13 MLAs from the remaining 24 showed that the latter did not constititute one third required for a split in the parent party. The Centre, he said, should not shirk its constitutional responsibilities to dismiss the state government. Amar Singh disputed the Congress argument saying that the Mulayam government had the support of 247 MLAs when it was formed and even if the 37 MLAs were not taken into account, it would still have been left with 210 at that time. He also said that the Supreme Court had not said that the state government was unconstitutional. The CPM, too, said that the issue was not about legality but the state government's legislative majority.
"The issue is not about legality but the government's majority. Whether the government enjoys majority or not should be determined on the floor of the House. This has been our principled stand for the last 40 years," said Sitaram Yechury after the party's politburo discussed and rejected the Congress proposal of central rule. He however sidestepped the question of his party's stand if the Centre placed UP under President's Rule. "We will look into the issue when the time comes…Our stand is based on the current situation," he said, noting that the Congress had extended support to the Mulayam government.
The question is whether the Congress will press ahead with the dismissal of the UP government. With the Budget session of Parliament starting from February 23, it is likely to do without a tacit understanding with its partners lest Mulayam accuse the Congress of hobnobbing with the BJP to pull down his government. The CPM, on its part, would not like to alienate the Samajwadi Party leader who is seen as an important link in their plan to set up a third front later.
Efforts to persuade the allies continue. "A dialogue is on," said AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
In a day of hectic consultations, Home Minister Shivraj Patil met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And in the backdrop of the Governor's report and the Left's refusal to play ball, senior Congress leaders, including Union Ministers Patil, P Chidambaram and Minister Kapil Sibal briefed party chief Sonia Gandhi on the unfolding scenario. Her political secretary Ahmed Patel was also present.
Sources said that if the Centre does decide to invoke Article 356 to place UP under central rule, it is likely to do so around February 21 — when the Uttarakhand elections take place — and before the Parliament session opens on February 23. "The next 48 hours are going to be crucial," said a Congress leader. He pointed out that a decision after February 23 would call for immediate ratification by the two Houses of Parliament while a decision before that would give it two months for ratification. UP State Congress Chief Salman Khurshid demanded action before February 26 to prevent a constitutional crisis. Other Congress leaders, however, concede that a decision on whether there should be central rule in UP might take 10 days. On his part, Mulayam has called an emergency meeting of his party on February 21. He has already said he will not resign. In Delhi, Amar Singh said that the apex court had not said anything against Mulayam or about the 24 MLAs.
Inputs from Saroj Nagi, Anil Anand, Chetan Chauhan, Srinand Jha and Satyen Mahapatra.