The Uttarakhand gamble – the courts are now the decision makers

The current situation in Uttarakhand finally seems to have been resolved, but not in the way that the BJP would have wanted. A situation which looked tricky initially has now become a public relations disaster for the BJP. After the Arunachal Pradesh turnaround where the number of dissidents in the Congress was enough to break the anti-defection law and get a majority with the support of the BJP, in the current case the number of dissidents in the Congress was just not enough. Even though there have been a number of disasters that the Congress faced during this entire situation; whether this be the highly controversial passing of the budget by voice vote, or the stings which showed the Congress chief minister Rawat trying to use money power at the most; all of these showed the Congress in bad light and could have been used by the BJP to take the moral high ground.
However, the perception was that the BJP central government was all out to gain power in the state by replacing the Congress government; and where this was a public relations problem was that the perception was gaining ground that the gaining of power would be any means possible rather than by following principles. Now, people know that politicians would follow whatever is in their best interests rather than being principled, but seeing this happen also means that the BJP is being brought down to the same situation as previous Congress governments, none of which had a very high reputation. The situation where the BJP had observers in the state, trying to ensure more defections and to somehow cobble up a Government, as well as trying to prevent the cancellation of the seats of the Congress rebels (who had been disqualified by the Speaker) all led to showing the BJP in the same boat as the Congress, no real principles.

Who wins in this entire situation ? It would seem that the Congress had won ? Yes, but only to an extent. There had been dissidence in the Congress that was not under control, and this is something that the Congress needs to ponder more. With the loss of the central Government and an aggressive BJP and with more corruption scandals hitting the Congress, there is likely to be less cohesion and more dissidence in the Congress and more of their state governments are going to be in trouble. It is only possible to reverse this if the ascendancy of the BJP is in question, and this is not projected for quite some time, and if the BJP is able to milk the corruption scandals against the Congress, will continue to be difficult.
The office of the speaker continues to be further degraded. The Speaker is supposed to be an impartial authority, and everybody knows that the speaker is the main tool of the ruling party in any assembly; and the function of the speaker was exactly the same in this situation. The speaker played a key role in the initial quashing of the votes of the rebel Congress MLA’s during the controversial budget passing and could be counted to disqualify the Congress rebel MLA’s when it was required (even though it was legal, the timing of the disqualification was as per required).
The BJP is probably the biggest loser as of now. Even though there is a momentum that it still seems to possess, the sheer failure of this effort to topple a Congress government has led the government with bad egg on its face. The office of the Governor is one that is used extensively to implement the plans of the central Government and the Uttarakhand governor did his best to play the effort by the BJP to gain an upper head; but just like the speaker, the office of the Governor is a discredited one, seen as a partisan person, and subjected to rebukes from the courts. The BJP has been seen to be the same as the Congress in such tactics, which means its promise of forming a government of principles has taken a beating; more such efforts would mean that the promise would be taking a massive shattering. Already, other opposition ruled states would also be apprehensive of efforts by the BJP against their states.
Probably the biggest power to come out of this has been the enhanced power of the courts – the High court, subject to the power of the Supreme court. In the past, decisions by courts would come a long time after the actual events, which means the power of the court was more of being scolding rather than being actually able to take decisions that could change the sequence of events. However, in this case, the courts were taking decisions real time, directing the course of events and eventually declaring a winner. This level of involvement of the court and no real opposition by any of the politicians involves means that the political parties have implicitly given up part of their authority in political matters to the courts and set a precedent that would keep future Government actions more circumspect.

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