M A I N   N E W S

Kalam summons Jharkhand Governor
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
In a precedent-setting and extraordinary move, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has summoned Jharkhand Governor Syed Sibtey Razi for discussions in the wake of the latter’s controversial decision to install the UPA government in Ranchi leading to vehement Opposition accusation that the constitutional head had turned a “supari killer” in murdering democracy.

As the protector of the Constitution, Dr Kalam has sent a strong message to Bihar Governor Buta Singh grappling with the problems of government formation in the state after a fractured verdict in the just concluded Assembly elections. Questions have also been raised about the actions of Goa Governor S.C. Jamir in hastily installing a Congress government in Panaji and providing it an extended time frame for seeking a vote of confidence in the assembly.

The BJP paraded its 41 legislators from Jharkhand before Dr Kalam here this evening.

It is significant that Dr Kalam has found it necessary to intervene in Jharkhand within 24 hours after the BJP-led NDA met him yesterday and demanded the recall of Mr Razi and reversing his decision to install a UPA government headed by Mr Shibu Soren against all constitutional norms.

It is apparent that the options before the President are limited after he hears out Mr Razi and the reasons which he found compelling in installing a UPA government ahead of giving the NDA an opportunity, especially as the BJP and its allies had struck a pre-poll arrangement and had emerged as the single-largest entity. Though reversing the decision is highly improbable, Dr Kalam can impress upon Mr Razi to reduce the time span for Chief Minister Shibu Soren to seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly.

Constitutional experts point out that the Governor’s powers under Article 164 of the Constitution is non-justiciable. The action of a Governor can neither be reviewed by a court or monitored by the President.

The President cannot summon a Governor for discussions except on the advice of the union council of ministers. This is the first time that the President has summoned a Governor to discuss his action in the appointment of a Chief Minister. Article 164 deals with the Governor’s powers to appoint a Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers.

The murmur of impropriety, discernible in a wide cross-section of Congressmen in connection with Mr Razi’s decision of sidelining the NDA in Jharkhand, has found its echo with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressing serious concern at the unsavoury and avoidable turn of events which has pushed them to the wall.

Even as Dr Singh rued that the discussions on a good general Budget for 2005-06 had been overtaken by events in Jharkhand, Ms Gandhi specifically told her senior party colleagues it was her firm belief that Governors must discharge their duties and responsibilities within the framework of the Constitution.

To that extent Mr Razi might well be emerging as the party’s fall guy in a situation that has gone awry with the Congress-led UPA at the receiving end.

BJP president L. K. Advani insisted that it would not be fair to entirely blame the Jharkhand Governor for murdering democracy in the fledgling state. Mr Razi, in Mr Advani’s opinion, had done a contract job or “supari killing” at the behest of his benefactors in Delhi.

Holding Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi directly responsible for the “murder of democracy” in Jharkhand, the NDA resolved to stall the proceedings in Parliament and launch a war in “defence of democracy.”

The Prime Minister held discussions with Ms Gandhi and other leaders, including Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and the Law Minister, about the situation in Jharkhand. He also held consultations with Attorney-General Milon Banerjee in this regard.

Meanwhile, union railway minister and RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav arrived here today for discussions with the Congress chief. Prior to that he met NCP strongman and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who assured him of his party’s support in forming a government in Patna.

Mr Laloo Yadav also met the Prime Minister and reiterated that his party would stake claim to form the government in Bihar. He also had discussions over the telephone with Left leaders H.S. Surjeet and A.B. Bardhan who is currently in Pakistan.

Supporting the Jharkhand Governor’s decision to invite the JMM-led coalition to form the government in Ranchi, he said the BJP was an expert in playing fraud. In this context he referred to the time when the BJP installed JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar as the chief minister of Bihar even though he had failed to prove his majority.

With the Congress extending support to the RJD, it is apparent that he is seeking Ms Gandhi’s intervention in getting kingmaker Ram Vilas Paswan’s support for the RJD-led arrangement in Bihar.

In a worse-case scenario, Mr Yadav wants Mr Paswan’s LJP to abstain during the voting on the motion of confidence in the Bihar Assembly.

After waiting for a day, the CPM, a key ally of the UPA, expressed strong reservation about the “hasty and controversial” manner in which the Jharkhand Governor had ascertained the support of the two political combinations in the state.

The party politburo maintained that the claims of majority support and formation of government must be decided on the floor of the legislature.

“The Governor or Raj Bhavan cannot be the deciding factor,” the party emphasised.

Simultaneously, in a bid to nip RJD’s moves in the bud, Mr Paswan urged Bihar Governor Buta Singh not to invite the RJD or the BJP to form the government. He made it clear to Mr Buta Singh that the LJP would neither support the RJD nor the BJP in government formation as an overwhelming number of MLAs were opposed to them.

After his meeting with Mr Buta Singh this afternoon, Mr Paswan said the LJP had the support of the CPI-ML, the Samajwadi party and the CPI, thereby taking the tally 43 MLAs. He said the RJD alliance would fall short of the magic figure of 122 for a simple majority in the 243-member Assembly.

He was assured by the Governor that any decision taken by him (Mr Buta Singh) would be without any bias and in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.


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