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Assembly should choose its leader, say former PMs

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MARCH 4. Concerned about the developments in Jharkhand and Goa, and the level of the current political discourse, three former prime ministers have suggested that governors invoke Article 175 (2) of the Constitution and ask the legislature to elect its own leader just as it elects the Speaker to avoid such situations.

In a joint statement, Chandra Shekhar, I. K. Gujral and H. D. Deve Gowda, have said that a person so elected could be appointed Chief Minister. "In this manner, the decision of majority support would have been decided on the floor of the House, chances of horse-trading would have been minimised and it would not have been necessary to ask such a Chief Minister to seek a vote of confidence again. When the basic question to be determined is of who commands the majority support in the House, the most obvious and logical course is to ask the House itself."

According to the three former prime ministers, "the partisan and unprincipled role played by some of the governors either on their own or under political pressures from outside is a danger signal for the future of freedom and democracy in our country''.

Of the view that the current discourse on what happened in Goa and Jharkhand should be conducted above political party levels, they said the Sarkaria Commission and the Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution had suggested that governors be selected only from among the detached and eminent persons "not too intimately connected with politics at least in recent years."

Stating that all parties had been "more or less equally guilty" of ignoring this suggestion, the three noted that "the unfortunate stand" of some governors in selecting a Chief Minister in a hung Assembly situation was "largely responsible for the continuing phenomenon of horse-trading, sale and purchase of legislators and instability of governments.''

In the Jharkhand case, they said, "all constitutional norms were flouted; instead of following the order of preference and inviting the leader of the largest pre-poll alliance who incidentally also happened to be the leader of the largest single party, the Governor decided to appoint a person of his own judgment."

While airing their views against the developments in Jharkhand and Goa, they also made out a case for dialogue. "We feel that once the constitutional culture and democratic norms are given a go-by, a vicious cycle is set in motion and one wrong is used to justify another wrong.... Parliament is a forum to talk, discuss and deliberate. While political differences remain and parties struggle for power, confrontation between the ruling parties and the Opposition should never be allowed to descend to a level where no space is left for dialogue.''

`Common norms needed'

Mr. V. P. Singh on Thursday suggested an all-party consensus on framing certain norms for government formation to avoid the misgivings that take place after a close election.

Making it clear that he considered the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) brand of politics detrimental for the country, Mr. Singh said, "yet I could not hold myself back from commenting on what has happened in Goa and Jharkhand." In Goa, both the Speaker and the Governor acted hastily while in Jharkhand, the Governor should have adopted the same procedure of asking both sides to parade the MLAs supporting them. "I don't disbelieve what the Jharkhand Governor has to say. But there should have been transparency and some common procedure for both sides.''

The former Prime Minister felt the political class should take the initiative of framing certain basic procedures for these types of situations otherwise, the courts might be forced to take such a step. "It is a question of political will. I am opposed to court activism regarding the actions of the executive because unlike the courts the executive is directly answerable to the people. They should frame some simple rules so that what has happened several times in the past is not repeated.''

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