It is almost certain now that the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh is on its last legs. Whether the government gets dismissed by the Centre in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment disqualifying 13 BSP MLAs, leading to a strong report by the Governor, or the Chief Minister resigns on his own, UP appears to be heading for President’s Rule. Yadav, on his part, is trying to preempt this by declaring that he will go in for yet another test on the floor of the House on February 26. Either way, his isolation is virtually complete. It has now been established that his government was running on the strength of defectors, and he has lost all moral authority to rule.
It can be argued that in politics, there is no morality and there have been instances in the past where parties diametrically opposed to each other have got together to support governments. The case of VP Singh forming the government with the help of the BJP and the CPI(M) in 1989 is a case in point. But politicians always have a way of explaining things to their own advantage.
In UP’s case, several things are now quite clear. First, Yadav did not have the adequate strength when he formed his government in August 2003 with the support of the BSP MLAs who had defected to his side. Second, there are prima facie indications that the then Speaker Kesarinath Tripathi played a role which suited Yadav’s interests, even at the cost of fuelling speculation that there was a tacit understanding between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP. Third, the Supreme Court, while disqualifying the first batch of 13 MLAs, has not been explicit about the status of the remaining 24 MLAs, leaving their fate to be decided by the Speaker.
Fourth, the last vote of confidence showed his numbers to have grown considerably despite withdrawal of support by Ajit Singh and the Congress, establishing that fresh defections had taken place. In fact, the defections in the latest instance may escape the purview of any court since elections to the UP assembly are scheduled soon. But even if no court takes a view on the matter, constitutionally and morally, the present government may find it difficult to justify its continuation. Questions will always be raised on why the Congress supported the government from outside knowing fully well that it was a government formed with the help of defectors. Therefore, for the Congress to take a high moral ground on the subject appears quite strange.
The CPI(M), which is making noises about opposing any move to impose President’s Rule, must realise that the consequences of the rule of law being infringed are far greater than those of taking a political stand on Article 356. While it is true that the legitimacy of any government must be tested only on the floor of the House, it is equally true that unconstitutional methods of forming a government cannot be upheld. The judgment has clearly pointed out that the very basis of the formation of the UP government was illegal. This point has been raised by virtually all parties, including the BSP, the Congress, the BJP and VP Singh.
The Congress, of all the parties, appears to be in a dilemma. On the one hand, it has the responsibility of upholding the Constitution, given that it is a principal player in the central government. On the other hand, it has little to gain politically from the exercise, since there is little chance of it coming to power on its own. Its actions will thus benefit others. In any case, it is widely known that a large number of state Congress leaders have had a secret understanding with either Yadav or Mayawati ever since the late PV Narasimha Rao deliberately weakened the party in the state by also helping the SP to take an upper hand.
For the BJP, the judgment has put the onus on its leaders to prove that they were not hand-in-glove with Yadav. Incidentally, then Speaker Kesarinath Tripathi is now the state BJP president. In 2005, a meeting between Yadav and RSS chief KS Sudarshan had sparked off speculation on whether it had led to the choice of Rajnath Singh as BJP head after LK Advani. Now, there are insinuations that a secret understanding between the two was the reason behind the failure of any top BJP leader to visit Nithari.
The UP developments must have pleased Mayawati the most. Despite facing corruption charges, she appears to be most confident about forming the next government in the event President’s Rule is imposed and elections are held with Yadav out of power. Political pundits have been debating for the last few months whether any party would be able to cobble a majority on its own considering the mess the state is in. There have been indications of a hung assembly, which also clearly points to one fact — horse-trading will perhaps continue even after the assembly elections. This, obviously, gives smaller parties and those with less influence like the Congress and Ajit Singh’s outfit a chance to have a say.
Political temperatures have already started rising, given the polls in Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand and the upcoming budget presentation in Parliament. But the biggest fight will be for UP, where it is to be seen whether Yadav will be able to overcome the present crisis and hold on to power or if President’s Rule will bring changes in political equations. Between us.
Email Pankaj Vohra: firstname.lastname@example.org