What with 8 CMs and repeated prez rule in 12 years...
shweta bharti | January 21, 2013
With an average tenure of 18 months for each chief minister since its formation in 2000, Jharkhand seems to be set to become a test subject for constitutional pundits whether small states suffering from continuous instability are a fit case for being made union territories – what with repeated the president’s rule anyways.
After eight CMs in a short span of its formation since 2000, once again the president’s rule has been imposed as the latest CM, Arjun Munda, resigned allegedly because he was not willing to give up his chair to his constituent partner Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the manner as was originally agreed between the constituents BJP and JMM.
Earlier, in 2005, JMM chief Shibu Soren was for the first time sworn in as the non-legislator CM. He, however, had to quit the post soon following the intervention of the supreme court in the matter of Arjun Munda vs. Governor of Jharkhand & Ors [W.P. (Civil) No. 123/2005] which was filed by the BJP leader challenging governor Syed Sibtey Razi’s decision to invite Soren to form the government.
Once again in 2008, Soren was sworn in as non-legislator CM taking advantage of article 164(4) of the constitution, after his life term in the Shashinath Jha murder case was set aside by the Delhi high court. However, once again he had to resign from the post, under pressure, as he lost the Tamar assembly by-election to Jharkhand Party candidate Gopal Krishna Patar by more than 9,200 votes, thereby not fulfilling the condition under article 164(4) that a non-legislator minister must get elected as a member of the legislative assembly within six months.
The union cabinet had imposed the president’s rule in the state on January 19, 2009 based on the report filed by governor Razi on the political deadlock after Soren’s resignation the previous day.
The election commission issued notification No. ECI/PN/58/2009 directing general election in the state, as the term of the assembly was due to expire on March 9, 2010. The polls once again resulted in a hung assembly.
The coalition led by JMM elected Soren as their leader, who was not even an elected member of the assembly but as he was elected leader of the major coalition, the governor invited Soren to take oath as CM on December 30, 2009, by misusing the rare provision of article 164(4) of the constitution. He could not get elected to the assembly within six months.
Media reports predicted that state BJP general secretary Arjun Munda would take over as CM of Jharkhand after the expiry of Soren’s tenure pursuant to the internal arrangement made between BJP and JMM that after 28 months of leading the government, the BJP will make way for Soren to once again.
On September 10, 2010, the two parties came together to form a coalition government with the same understanding.
The principle of governance of a state by the council of ministers has been reduced to governance of the state by each party/constituent for specific periods although such a party/constituent is not envisaged or accountable under the constitutions.
Hence when BJP apparently now backtracked from its commitment at the end of the 28-month period in handing over the baton to Soren, JMM withdrew its support, compelling Munda to resign.
In pending proceedings in a writ petition under article 32 seeking prevention of such miscarriage of democratic structure of our country under such arrangements violating article 164 (4), the supreme court has issued notice to the governor of Jharkhand.
Be it election to the Rajya Sabha or becoming a CM by negotiating power sharing arrangements, constitutional provisions have been allowed to be twisted beyond recognition and money allowed to play havoc with governance in this small tribal state.
Given the levels of allegations of corruption in the state over the past decade fueled by continued instability, is there a case to reevaluate the best governance model here? Is making such instable states union territories an answer to the continued neglect of development in these states?
If not, then there is a dire need for stringent norms for forming a coalition government and a clear directive that the post of CM in Jharkhand is not treated like a game of poker, with one coalition partner ready to throw away the other at the slightest instance for their personal and motivated gains.
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