Friday, January 20, 2006

7 or 9 days - why?

Yesterday evening at 5, Governor T N Chaturvedi addressed a press conference. It's very rare for constitutional heads like President, Vice-President, Governor, Chief justice, etc to address press conferences. Even during times of constitutional crises, the President and the governors keep a safe distance from journalists and at best issue terse communiques, outlining in a very matter of fact manner the course of action. That is the tradition. But Chaturvedi's was a welcome break. On such occasions, a direct interaction with journalists is always better, since a number of doubts and grey areas can be cleared.
The political situation Karnataka faces today is nothing new in a democracy. When the majority of the government is in doubt, and the opposition senses power, the governor asks the chief minister to prove the majority in the assembly. That's the right thing. But the number of days given to the government is always a subject of controversy. It's the discretion of the governor, and rarely it passes without at least a murmur of protest.
Incumbents plead for time, opposition wants the test immediately. The objective is to let the political turbulence settle down. But the fact is, farther the date, more the time for horse-trading (even if MLAs are not horses, as our governor very generously enlightened all of us yesterday.) It's time for suitcases to be packed and exchanged. It's time for MLAs to be wooed and their allegiance bought. This is a flipside of democracy.
Why so much time? What can't be decided in 24 or 48 hours isn't going to be decided in 7 days or 9 days, or even one month. There should be a constitutional mandate that the incumbent whose majority is in doubt should prove his majority within two working days (sooner the better) or may be three, at the most. Such a mandate will not only remove suspicions of partisan decisions, wheels of administration won't come to a standstill. Such a mandate should be put in place.
By the way, did Dharam Singh get 7 days or 9 days. If you include 19th (yesterday) and 27th when the CM has to take the trust vote, it is 9 days, if you exclude both it is 7. Give a political twist here too:  Dharam says he has only 7 days, but BJP says, no, he has been given nine days!

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