What does the political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh reveal?
On January 26, the President of India accepted the recommendation of the Union Government to invoke Article 356 of the Constitution to declare President’s rule in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. This was justified by the central government declaring the situation as a “law and order problem” resulting in “constitutional breakdown” in that state.
The events leading to the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh and following it have brought out in sharp relief how political power is actually constituted in India, and its complete arbitrariness.
Despite all the talk of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”, in the final analysis sovereign power vests in the President advised by the Union Cabinet. The decision to overthrow the constitutionally sanctioned government of Arunachal Pradesh was taken by the constitutionally sanctified Union Cabinet and approved by the head of the Indian state, the President of India. The credibility of the entire political system and process has been thoroughly shaken in the course of the dog fight between the BJP and the Congress over who should constitute the government of Arunachal Pradesh and plunder the resources of the state. Now the Supreme Court has stepped in as an arbiter to try and restore some measure of credibility to a thoroughly discredited system.
Elections to the 60 member Arunachal Pradesh Assembly were held simultaneously with the elections to the Lok Sabha in April-May 2014. The Congress Party secured a majority in the Assembly (43 seats) and formed the government. The BJP won 11 seats. However, the BJP won one of the two Lok Sabha seats and its MP from the state, Kiran Rijiju was appointed a Minister of State for Home Affairs. Ever since, the Central government has been trying to bring down the Arunachal government by engineering defections, with the aim of establishing a BJP government in that state. A top functionary of the BJP openly declared that it is the practice in India to ensure that all the governments in the North East are of the same party that rules at the center! In other words, the BJP was merely following the practice established by the Congress Party when it was in power at the center!
In June 2015, the Central government brought in the current governor of Arunachal Pradesh Shri J.P. Rajkhowa to implement its plan of overthrowing the state government of Chief Minister Nabam Tuki. Defections were organized from the Congress Legislative Party, reducing the government to a minority.
The Central government knew that the Arunachal Speaker Shri Nakam Rebia was planning to use the anti defection law to disqualify the defectors. He had called for a session of the Assembly on January 14, before the dead line for the convening of the Assembly session expired on January 21, 2016. Acting on behalf of the Central government, the Governor organized a session of the house outside the state assembly building (reported to be in a gym), on December 16, 2015. In this session, a resolution was passed impeaching the Speaker (who was not present), and dismissing the government of Nabam Tuki. Incidentally Tuki and his supporters had boycotted this session declaring it “illegal and unconstitutional”.
Following this, mass protests were organized by the supporters of the Congress government outside the Governor’s residence. The Arunachal Government and the Congress Party challenged the decisions of the Governor before the judiciary. While the entire sordid drama was being discussed before the Supreme Court, the Central Government decided to impose President’s Rule.
The justifications put forward by the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh for President’s Rule are utterly cynical. The Government of Arunachal Pradesh is accused of links with secessionist Naga groups, and of inciting communal tensions in the state and of creating a “law and order” problem. The political system and process of the Indian Union is such that the allegations of the Governor cannot be questioned by anyone, including the Supreme Court! This is what the Supreme Court itself has admitted. It can only question the methods used by the Governor in overthrowing the government of Arunachal Pradesh. It will not question the right of the Central government to dismiss the state government.
Thus, on February 1, the Supreme Court recalled an earlier order to the Governor to submit the report which he had sent to the Union government in which he had given the reasons for asking for President’s rule to be imposed, saying it had made a “mistake” by not realising that Governors have “complete immunity” and are “not answerable to courts for acts done in their official capacity”.
While the Supreme Court is busy deciding whether what the governor did in Arunachal Pradesh is “constitutional” or not, what is very clear is that in the existing political system, the power of the central government to interfere in the affairs of the state government, up to and including toppling the government and imposing central rule, as has been done in this case, is perfectly constitutional.
The relations between the Center and the states constituting the Indian Union are colonial and imperialist. This reveals itself most clearly in the case of the North Eastern states, Jammu& Kashmir, etc.
For example, in March 2015, the Central government extended AFSPA to almost all the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, with the unilateral declaration that the “law and order situation” there justified it, without any discussion on the matter in the state Assembly or in the Parliament. The Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh had gone on record expressing the dissent of his government at this unilateral move of the Center. AFSPA permits the armed forces to shoot and kill, with complete impunity. The killers cannot be tried in court or punished. The central government's decision to declare any area “disturbed” cannot be brought under judicial review. In other words, the central government can deprive the people of a state of all rights, including the right to life, by simply declaring an area “disturbed” under the AFSPA. This is what has been happening with the people of all the North Eastern states.
The political drama that has unfolded in Arunachal Pradesh has once again thrown the spotlight on the severe crisis of credibility faced by the rule of the bourgeoisie. On the one hand, there is growing demand amongst the working class and people for being decision makers, for the right to exercise political power and decide the course of our society. More and more people are realising that the system of democracy in place in our country deliberately ensures that the working class and toiling masses are deprived of political power. Far from being “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, Indian democracy is being increasingly exposed for what it is in reality — the brutal dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the workers and peasants. The concentration of power in the hands of the Union Cabinet, the no-holds barred dog fight between the principle parties of the big bourgeoisie for becoming the ruling party at the center are essential features of this dictatorship.