Amid raging controversy over the role of governors in imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, former law minister HR Bhardwaj has defended the Raj Bhawan, saying speakers are to be blamed for political stalemates in states.
“In most cases speakers are not acting in an impartial manner. This is leading to litigation under anti-defection law complicating the political scene in the states,” Bhardwaj – a former governor of Karnataka and Kerala – told HT.
“If the speaker acts like an impartial person, there would be no problem. But if he does not follow his dharma there would be breakdown of constitutional machinery,” he added.
Asked if governors were being used to destabilise state government of opposition parties, he shot back: “What can a governor do? If he has come to know that the state government has lost majority, he is bound to ask the chief minister to seek a trust vote. He can’t allow a minority government to continue.
“The problem begins when the governor requests the speaker to convene the House for a floor test. Instead of simply conducting the floor test, the speaker disqualifies rebel MLAs of the ruling party. Then the disqualified MLAs go to courts against the speaker’s decision, further complicating the matter,” Bhardwaj said.
Giving the example of Arunachal Pradesh, the former law minister said: “What can the governor do if the Speaker locks the House? The proceedings were conducted outside the House. This can’t be allowed.
“Even in Uttarakhand the problem started with the speaker’s decision not to go for division of votes on the appropriation bill,” he added.
On Uttarakhand governor KK Paul fixing a date for trust vote and then recommending dismissal of Harish Rawat government, Bhardwaj said: “The governor only sends a report. The decision is taken by the union cabinet. You can’t blame the governor for it.”
To a specific query about the phenomenon of politicians shifting loyalties frequently, Bhardwaj said: “Political parties are not taking care of their own MLAs. And then money power is used to make them switch sides. It’s a big problem.”
Asked if the anti-defection law has failed to achieve its purpose and the political class should think of suitable changes in it, Bhardwaj said: “Rajiv Gandhi government got more than 400 MPs in the Lok Sabha in 1984. Even Pandit Nehru did not have this kind of majority. He wanted to stop his own MPs from defecting. This is how the Tenth Schedule (that contains anti-defection law) was added to the Constitution in 1985. The intention was good. But after more than 30 years, it is clear that it has failed to check defections. “