In the unfolding Uttarakhand drama all participants emerge diminished. It was a problem borne of rebellion in the Congress. Apparently, Chief Minister Harish Rawat, now facing horse-trading charges, had lost majority with nine MLAs parting ways with the Congress. The Speaker did not agree to their demand for a division of votes on the appropriation Bill, claims the BJP and asks on what ground the MLAs were suspended by the Speaker. The floor test would have determined whether the Congress government enjoyed the majority. However, an impatient BJP leadership imposed President’s rule, which has invited all-round criticism and Arun Jaitley’s arguments just don’t add up.
If the Governor had evidence of a “breakdown of constitutional machinery”, as is made out to be, why would he call for a floor test? Where is the so-called “breakdown of constitutional machinery?” If the Speaker says the appropriation Bill has been passed, his ruling is final and it may be challenged subsequently. Whether a Bill is passed or not, whether a government enjoys a majority or not -these are questions which can be answered only on the floor of the House as has been decided by the Supreme Court in the SR Bommai case. Such issues cannot be settled in Delhi. When all interested parties play such dirty politics, the country looks up to the President to maintain the high standards his position demands. The President could have deferred the signing of the proclamation for Central rule and asked the BJP government to wait for the outcome of the floor test. However, he, disappointingly, did not rise to the occasion and spare the nation a few absurdities.
The sordid political drama could have been avoided if everyone had followed the rulebook. Now it has thrown up legal issues the High Court at Nainital is grappling with. While the single-judge Bench is right in asking for a floor test in keeping with the Supreme Court guidelines, whether he could interfere with a Presidential proclamation and revive a suspended government for a floor test is an open question which the Division Bench is expected to take up at the next hearing. The matter would end up in the apex court. Federal arrangements have suffered.