MUST READ: The Constitutional Dimension And Political Game-plan Behind J&K Assembly's Dissolution


The dissolution of Kashmir assembly has several dimensions. But two stand out very starkly. One is the constitutional dimension and there is a precedent to this. In 2005 the Governor of Bihar, overnight dissolved the assembly which was 6 months old as elections were held in Feb 2005 and it was a hung assembly kept in suspended animation. 

Written By Sushil Pandit | Mumbai | Updated On:

The dissolution of the Kashmir assembly has several dimensions. But two stand out very starkly. 

One is the constitutional dimension, and there is a precedent to this. In 2005 the Governor of Bihar, overnight, dissolved the assembly which was then 6 months old (as elections were held in February 2005) and it resulted in a hung assembly kept in suspended animation. At that time it was the UPA that was ruling at the Centre -- it was Manmohan Singh's government -- and Nitish Kumar managed to wean away the MLAs of Ram Vilas Paswan's party along with several others, and was in a position to stake a claim to form a stable government. As soon as they got wind of this, the then Congress woke up the then President, APJ Abdul Kalam, who was on a state visit to Russia, in Moscow. He was woken up past midnight and was asked to fax a dissolution of the assembly. It was dissolved to stop Nitish Kumar from staking a claim. 

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That was very similar to what happened in Jammu and Kashmir. The Bihar case went in for judicial review, and the Supreme Court was scathing, terming the act as unconstitutional. 'When the assembly was in suspended animation if someone was able to put together a viable legislative majority, why was he thwarted?' 

Fresh elections were called for and he (Nitish) came back with a thumping majority. As this happened first and the apex court decision terming the dissolution as unconstitutional came later, it was inconsequential, but it set a precedent. This precedent has been thrown to the wind. The J&K assembly has been dissolved. This time the assembly has again been dissolved to prevent any claim from materialising to form a single government. This is one fact that must be kept in mind. 

The second issue is, even if there were claims made, even if there was horse trading, even if it was without the letters of support, what the Governor could have done was to reject those claims. Why dissolve the assembly and that too in a hurry? It smacked of some fear that if this assembly remains alive and a tenable viable claim materialises, then it will be difficult to reject. This is why he rejected it, that's why it's patently immoral and patently unconstitutional. This is as far as the constitutional aspect goes.

Coming to the politics, when on June 19, 2018, the BJP-PDP government collapsed, it was the most amicable split ever between two coalition partners. They were not at loggerheads, the incumbent Chief Minister didn't rush to the Governor to prove a majority. She didn't rush to any other political formation for support to save the government. She didn't even accuse or abuse her partner for betrayal. As soon as news from Delhi emerged, she almost dutifully went to the Governor and submitted her resignation. What emerged was that this was an amicable split, not a bitter parting, and keeping the assembly in suspended animation had a plan, which was as follows -- 

As the government was so discredited in the respective constituencies of both the BJP and PDP, they thought it wasn’t prudent to fight elections while keeping the government intact as this would jeopardise their electoral chances. So they decided to take a break, issue suspended animation, contest elections, and once they’re through the Lok Sabha elections, come back and revive the assembly as they would be left with about 20 months to rule. Which is why, from June till now -- it's been 5 months -- they were not too critical of each other, not bitter about each other, but at the same time, their ranks were restive, especially PDP's, because there was an assembly that was alive but there was no power to enjoy. And just as PDP was uneasy under Mehbooba Mufti, NC's and the Congress' MLAs were restive with the prospect of staying out of power for so many years. As soon as an opportunity emerged of Sajad Lone trying to cobble a coalition which included splitting the PDP and weaning MLAs from other parties, this possibility became real. Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Omar Abdullah also felt that some of their MLAs were going astray.

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In order to prevent this leakage from their ranks, they decided to create their own coalition in order to stake a claim. It is this unabashed race for power between the two blocs -- one that was seeking to break an established party and another seeking to keep their flock together -- in which Mehbooba raced ahead of Sajad Lone in order to stake a claim. And as soon as the Governor was formally informed, BJP panicked and pre-empted the move by dissolving the assembly. The Governor knew that as soon as a viable indisputable claim emerged, he wouldn't be in a position to brush it aside and hence, promptly dissolved the assembly. In the process, fledgling democracy in the state that has often been violated in the quest for power once again stood depleted in the eyes of the electorate. 

Ultimately, it is the separatists who gain by demonstrating to the people of the state that Indian democracies and Indian political system was far too compromised to allow it to reflect not just the true will of the people but also rudimentary adherence to the norms. And because BJP has been at the driver’s seat in these circumstances, BJP would take most of the blame for such a scenario.

(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)

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