M A I N   N E W S

Kidwai clears controversial Bills
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
The three controversial Bills seeking to advance the panchayat and municipal elections in Haryana are now Acts, following the Governor, Dr A.R. Kidwai, giving his assent to them today.

The Bills were earlier returned by Dr Kidwai for reconsideration by the Assembly with a message that the existing provisions were more than adequate to complete the election process as well as to meet any exigency.

The House reconsidered the Bills at its winter session held early this month and passed them without any modifications in the light of the objections raised by Dr Kidwai. After that Dr Kidwai was not left with any option except to give his assent to the Bills the Haryana Panchayati Raj(Second Amendment) Bill, the Haryana Municipal(Second Amendment) Bill and the Haryana Municipal Corporation(Second Amendment) Bill.

Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with the issue of Governor's assent to the Bills, categorically says: ... if the Bill is passed again by the House with or without amendment and presented to the Governor for assent, the Governor shall not withhold assent therefrom...

With the Bills getting the Governor's assent, it will now be possible for the state government and the Haryana Election Commission to hold the panchayat and municipal elections before the Assembly poll. This has been an important weapon in the ruling party's armoury to contest the Assembly elections. It is an established fact that after the panchayat elections, the village community gets divided into factions led by winners and losers in the poll. It is also no secret that in Haryana villages if one faction aligns with one political party, the other faction automatically gets aligned with the rival political party, notwithstanding ideological differences.

After tasting a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, poll managers of the ruling INLD thought of holding the panchayat elections before the Assembly poll to take an advantage of possible factionalism generated by the grass-root democratic process.

However, the unamended Acts provided that the panchayat poll could be held only two months before the expiry of the tenure of the existing bodies. The amended Act provides for holding the elections 120 days before the expiry of the term.

Haryana Congress leaders were aware of this strategy of the ruling party. Therefore, they had been opposing the Bills from the day one. But they were let down by at least two Union Ministers.

First the Union Panchayati Raj Minister, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer, who calls himself the father of the Panchayati Raj Act, declared in Chandigarh that there was no legal lacuna in the Haryana Bill.

After Mr Aiyer's certificate, it was not possible for Dr Kidwai to reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President. Only those Bills can be reserved for the Presidential consideration which are repugnant to a Central law.

Still in view of the legal objections raised by the Haryana Congress leaders, Dr Kidwai sought the opinion of the Attorney-General of India through the Union Law Ministry.

The Haryana Congress leaders were confident that the Union Law Minister, Mr Hans Raj Bhardwaj, would make sure that the Bill would remain with the Ministry for a considerable time or at least till the Election Commission of India announced the Assembly elections.

Mr Bhardwaj, however, shocked them by returning the Bill sans the opinion of the Attorney-General.

It is no secret that Mr Bhardwaj is not happy with certain senior Haryana Congress leaders, who, he believes, did not help his son in getting the party nomination from Karnal in the Lok Sabha elections.

Now Dr Kidwai had to return the Bills for reconsideration of the House because Article 200 says "...provided that the Governor may, as soon as possible after the presentation to him of the Bill for assent, return the Bill...requesting the House to reconsider it."

The first round of the strategy for the Assembly election goes to Mr Om Prakash Chautala and his poll managers.

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