The post-poll violence of West Bengal, 2021, has made history. India has been rudely woken up to a new terror that is in total contrast to both the democratic and secular structure of the country. A large section of the society, both political and apolitical, has questioned the violence and openly condemned it. Calling it genocide and planned persecution, the BJP supporters have flooded the internet with their demand for a President’s rule (article 356) in the state. There was a cascade of #spinelessBJP on Twitter and other social networking sites. While the appeal seems legit, we cannot ignore the repercussions and predicaments that article 356 will bring with it.
To get a better understanding, we need to look at the situation legally and constitutionally. Since India is a democracy, it has certain procedures to deal with the devil. If the Modi government had imposed article 356 in the state, it would have backfired on the BJP. Mamata Banerjee had no legal control or power until her swearing-in ceremony; the blame automatically goes to the authority that had the legal and administrative power i.e. Election Commission of India (ECI). The Trinamool Congress (TMC) then would have taken the imposed act to the Supreme Court (SC). Being a part of a democratic society and considering that the elections were just over, the Centre would have fallen flat on its face and walked out of court wearing the badge of an unconstitutional jilted party.
This would invite national and international criticism as the Centre would have been hasty, impulsive and constitutionally wrong. It is undemocratic to not give the elected government a chance to control the internal disturbances. This would have resulted in the downfall of the BJP government and would bear serious consequences detrimental to the overall image of the party. Now, coming to what the government can do and the steps were taken by them to control the violence.
Article 256 and 257 are no ordinary laws. They deal with the Centre and state relations and are the answers to the ongoing violence. These laws are specifically made for this purpose. They give the Union, power to :
a) Give time to the state government to deal with the crisis.
b) Demand answers from the concerned authority
c) Form committees and teams to investigate the situation on the ground and
d) Give mandatory but temporary laws to the state to control the violence (if the state cannot comply with the centre).
The Centre, instead of imposing a direct rule of the President (which ideally should be the last option), can solve this more rationally and constitutionally; which it has. The Modi administration has faced a lot of criticism from their supporters and was also termed ‘spineless’, but what the supporters cannot understand is that to win a war, you need to lose some battles.
Under articles 256 and 257, the Director-General of Police (DGP) and Chief Secretary are given notices to act on the guidelines given by the centre; even if the concerned state government does not wish to comply with it. So, the Centre has now started the legal and constitutional process to solve this situation.
The Chief Home Secretary, Ajay Bhalla, on May 3, sent an official missive to the Chief Secretary of West Bengal demanding “immediate” action to curb the violence spread across the state. The State government is duty-bound to respond in a stipulated time of two days, failing which, the Home Ministry led by Shri Amit Shah is at liberty to form a four member team, which will investigate on the ground and report to the ministry. This is exactly what has transpired so far. Since the TMC failed to respond, the Home Ministry has sent a delegation of four members to investigate the issue. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW), along with other organisations have taken cognisance of the matter too.
Even after giving time to the elected government and using the two articles at the Centre’s disposal, if the situation persists, only then will it be constitutional for the Governor to demand the imposition of article 356. Constitutionally, any state government must be given adequate time to resolve its affairs. Not only will it be fair to the new CM of the state, but it will also uphold the image of the Prime Minister, both nationally and internationally, as he will have solved this issue without ‘murdering the democracy’ of the country.
Now, the question arises who has propelled this controversy? Is it a conscious effort to burn the bridge between the PM and his supporters? Is it a conspiracy to malign his image before his vote bank? Is it all being blown out of proportion, to simply pressurize the PM into making a political blunder? Is it an endeavour to topple the government in the next general elections? Is it an attempt to create panic within the supporters of the party that their interests will never be looked after? Is it a bid to destabilize the BJP vote bank?
There is no doubt that post-poll violence has happened, and that it needs to be dealt with an iron fist; but the other side of the coin truly demonstrates that the issue has not only been overplayed but is also a pre-planned stratagem, the actual effect of which we will see only in 2024.
So, this whole situation is being taken care of legally and constitutionally, and not impulsively. The government at the Centre has displayed both intellect and sophistication in biting the bullet; something that the BJP supporters must understand and respect. While the BJP as a party may have failed to protect its karyakartas, we need to realize that the Prime Minister owes allegiance to his nation first, not his party; and in that light, our PM has shown exemplary conduct.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author.