The Godfather takes Opposition and Media head-on

By Prabhakar Timble
03 April 2016 11:24 IST

The imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is a notice from the BJP headquarters that they will use money, muscle and official machinery to destabilize assemblies wherever the opposition parties are in power. No other flag would be allowed to fly on the Vidhan Sabhas except that of the BJP or in partnership unless the opposition parties enjoy unquestionable majority as in Bihar and Delhi. The self proclaimed nationalists have the purse to make offers to legislators which they cannot refuse like Marlon Brando, the actor who said in the movie The Godfather, the lines penned by Mario Puzo “I am gonna make him an offer which he can’t refuse”. This offer is not like a negotiation since mobsters are not known for negotiating.

Abuse of Article 356

The present ruling dispensation at the centre has access to corporate largesse which no political party had ever before. This is because crony capitalists know they can strike gold under a dictatorial regime legitimized by democracy. Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, President’s rule can be invoked only on the ground of breakdown of constitutional machinery or where it is apparent that the government is not conducted in accordance with the constitution. An internal rebellion within the ruling party is no ground for the proclamation of emergency unless there is a constitutional breakdown. If the government in Uttarakhand had lost the confidence of the state legislature, it should be proved through a transparent process of test of no-confidence on the floor of the state assembly. This is the principle enunciated by various commissions on Centre-State relations keeping in view the federal character of India as a Union of States. The opposition should have moved the vote of no-confidence or the Governor should have directed the Chief Minister to win the trust vote. Raj Bhavan or Rashtrapati Bhavan are no grounds to prove majority or demonstrate the loss of it. Further, Article 356 could be invoked only after receipt of a reasoned report from the Governor of the State that the province is in a state of constitutional crisis.

The central government stepped in haste to evict a duly elected government and keep the state assembly in suspended animation which has exactly twelve months for its term to expire. The game plan appears to be taking charge of state governance and administration to put the BJP in an advantageous position for fresh elections. A single judge of the Uttarakhand High Court issued directions for the floor test in the state already brought under President’s rule. Such a judgement without any direction on the proclamation of emergency is unprecedented. The single judge also directed that the MLAs disqualified by the Speaker of the Uttarakhand assembly be allowed to exercise their vote without any decision on the pending appeal of the disqualified MLAs. However, the division bench of the High Court has stayed the verdict and saved further confusion that would have arisen with the results of floor test kept sealed till disposal of related petitions. It now looks that the haste and midnight meeting of the central cabinet was to preempt judicial verdict of a floor test. The BJP was also under the apprehension that the Speaker of the Uttarakhand Assembly having disqualified the rebel MLAs would not allow them for any sitting on the confidence vote. This explains the rush and speed to evict the Congress government in Uttarakhand.

 

Media under threat

In the world of politics today, the power shift to media is discernible. The parliamentary sessions last for a few days in a year, but on our TV screens it is daily without a break, almost 24x365. It is not that the media is doing all things right but undoubtedly it influences the public opinion. The media is also dismantling the agenda of the legislature and the executive and lures these organs to fall in line with the agenda set by the media. The people’s confidence in the legislature and the executive is facing a recession and the media is somehow recovering the lost ground. The judiciary was emerging as the conscience keeper of the people but its failure to prune down the delays, the cost of litigation in terms of the fees of the Bench and the piling up of litigation in the courts is a stumbling block to recover from the confidence crisis.

That way media has been never free as it is controlled by the corporate capital. However, within the limitations it has lived up to the aspirations of the people. The advances in technology have made media more accessible and more democratic. The competition has ensured that there cannot be blackout of news and nothing can remain hidden. There is someone or the other to stand up against injustice, discrimination and governmental lawlessness.

The Godfather disease is sought to be injected in the media by the present ruling powers. It is alleged that journalists are under government scanner and working under the pressure of government machinery. Journalists not toeing the line of the government are systematically intimidated. It is no longer a negotiation of personal profit or favours. Journalists are slapped with false criminal charges inviting jail. Like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, the threats are either of death or security to life and limb.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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