In July, the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh Rajkhowa which had resulted, first, in the unseating of the elected Congress government there headed by Nabam Tuki and then, in the declaration of President’s Rule in the state in January.
This judgment has been viewed as an indictment of the Central government, which has been maneuvering to destabilize opposition-led state governments ever since it came to power at the Centre. The Congress Party as well as various apologists for the system of Indian democracy have been hailing the Supreme court and its decision as ‘vindication of democracy’ and of ‘constitutional propriety’ in governance. In reality, the entire set of political developments of the last seven months in Arunachal Pradesh exposes that this parliamentary democracy has nothing to do with the will of the people and only represents the fight for pelf and power among representatives of the ruling class. It is this cynical exercise of power over the people by representatives of the exploiting classes that is sanctioned by the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision to bring back a government which obviously did not enjoy the majority in the legislature, in the name of “undoing” the action of the Governor is only one more step in the thoroughly farcical game played by the parties of the ruling class and the Supreme Court in the name of “defending democracy”.
Elected representatives both at the Centre and the states come to power in the name of the people. Once elected they engage in fierce infighting and intrigue to get plum posts and to line their own pockets. The party in power at the center tries every method to topple governments run by opposition parties and establish its own government. In the smaller states with small legislative assemblies in particular, it is very easy for just a few legislators to destabilize the governments. The states of the North East are particularly subject to these political games, which make a mockery of ‘the will of the people’. While their so-called representatives are engaged in this kind of self-serving behavior, the people of these states are left to suffer the tyranny of occupation by the central paramilitary and armed forces, and are condemned to live in conditions of great economic backwardness, with few opportunities for education, employment, etc.
It is this kind of infighting that led 20 Congress MLAs to withdraw their support to their own government led by Nabam Tuki in Arunachal last December, less than 2 years after it was voted to power. The BJP government at the Centre saw an opportunity to unseat yet another Congress state government, and used its appointed Governor to do the necessary maneuvering. This included de-recognising the Speaker and convening a preponed meeting of the Legislative Assembly without the Chief Minister or the Speaker, outside the Assembly premises. It is these actions of the Governor that the Supreme Court in its recent judgment held to be in violation of the Constitution.
The use of Article 356 to dismiss the Arunachal Pradesh government has numerous precedents. Governments at the Centre have time and again used their appointed Governors and Article 356 to dismiss elected governments and impose Central rule over states on the most flimsy grounds. The first such case was the Nehru government’s dismissal of the first CPI-led government in Kerala in 1959 in the name of a threat to “law and order”. The ‘discretionary’ powers of the Governor have been deliberately left vague in the Constitution. This is precisely to allow the big bourgeoisie which controls the Centre to impose its will in states where it senses a threat to its interests.
The blatant manipulation of rules and powers by the Governor, the Chief Minister and the Speaker in Arunachal Pradesh, and in other recent cases like Uttarakhand, have laid bare for everyone to see the cynical and arbitrary way in which power is exercised under the present political system. The Supreme Court ruling is aimed at making out that the problem is not with the political system and process, including the system and process of government formation, and the institutions such as that of the Governor, but with the failings of individuals.
However the Congress Party, just after the Supreme Court verdict, in a prime example of horsetrading motivated by its desire to preserve its government in Arunachal Pradesh at all costs, unceremoniously kicked out its ‘restored’ Chief Minister Tuki who it knew would not pass a floor test in the Assembly. Instead it handed over the crown to Pema Khandu, one of those who had rebelled against the Tuki government, on the condition that he and his fellow rebels come back to the Congress! The Pema Khandu government duly won the vote of confidence in the assembly. People are supposed to “rejoice” at this “victory” of “democracy”.
It is important to note that in the entire sequence of events of the past eight months, the electorate of Arunachal Pradesh has had no role. This is not specific to Arunachal Pradesh or the present instance. It is a feature of Indian democracy. Neither the MLA’s of the state, nor the Supreme Court or the Congress and BJP thought it fit to raise the question of seeking the views of the electorate of the state. This shows that all of them hold the electorate in contempt. They uphold the political theory that underlies Indian democracy that declares people to be unfit and incapable of governing themselves.
The role of the electorate according to this political theory must be limited to voting for one or the other representative of the ruling class once every five years. The parties of the ruling class must put forth candidates, and people chose from one of them. The elected representatives are accountable to the parties that put them forth as candidates — not to the people of their constituency. Through the party whip and the anti defection law, the elected MLA’s are kept on a leash by the party high command. The Party that gets the majority in the assembly forms the government. There are no mechanisms to ensure that those elected are accountable to the electorate. The electorate cannot recall unsuitable representatives. It has simply no say whatsoever in the decision making of the government that comes to power.
Such a system is suitable for the biggest monopolies of our country and the imperialists. It is suitable for them because they can ensure that one of their favoured parties forms the government. They can ensure that the executive power is completely under their dictate. The monopolies controlling the central state make sure that their interests are firmly defended by the state governments in different states. When they face some opposition by some rival interests, they work to bring to power a government which will work for their interests. This is what has happened now in Arunachal Pradesh as well. A new government has taken the place of the Tuki government. It has been pointed out that one of the factors for the rebellion against Tuki was a dispute over the location of an airport in the state, as well as the status of some power projects.
The system of democracy in our country has nothing to do with defending the well-being or interests of the people. People are completely marginalized from political power and have no power to make any decisions that affect their lives. Political power is wielded by the biggest monopolies who control the state machinery. This system of bourgeois democracy is a mechanism to ensure the dictate of these monopolies over the people of our country. The governments that are constituted in the center or states are nothing more than management teams of the big bourgeoisie. When the bourgeoisie feels that a particular government is not doing its job well, it organizes to replace it with a new management team that will better implement its program. The people of India must unite and take forward the struggle for the establishment of an altogether new political system in which they can exercise power in their own interests.