The imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand led to a political slugfest with the Congress terming it as a “murder of democracy” and parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu hitting back with “devil-quoting-scriptures” barbs. Both the government and the opposition party have valid points to support their arguments, but if one pits the present against the past, the grand old party may be at a disadvantage.
Of the 126 times the Centre has invoked Article 356 to impose President’s Rule in states, 88 were under Congress rule (see graphics). Former PM Indira Gandhi was accused of turning Article 356 into a political tool as she used it 50 times during her 16 years in power.
Over the past 68 years, Article 356 has been used to dismiss many elected governments, even when in a majority, to keep assemblies in suspended animation in order to give time to a favourable dispensation to get requisite numbers.
In 1959, the Jawaharlal Nehru government dismissed the EMS Namboodiripad-led Communist government in Kerala citing law and order problems. In the ensuing assembly elections in 1960, the vote share of the Communists increased while that of Congress decreased, but the latter managed to form an alliance government with Praja Socialist Party.
The subsequent years witnessed rampant use of Article 356, the most blatant being the dismissal of nine Congress governments by the Janata Party regime at the Centre in 1977, and Congress returning the favour once it returned to power in 1980. In 1984, when NT Rama Rao-led TDP government in Andhra Pradesh was dismissed, he came to Delhi to expose the Congress-led government, parading 161 MLAs of the 295-member House before the President.
In 2005, after polls produced a hung assembly in Bihar, then Governor Buta Singh recommended dissolution of the assembly alleging horsetrading. The Union cabinet approved it and faxed it to then President APJ Abdul Kalam, then in Moscow, for his signature. In 2006, Singh had to resign after Supreme Court passed strictures against him for “misleading” the Centre to prevent a particular party from coming to power.