RJD has the last laugh as President's rule ends
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move which will pave the way for the reinstatement of the Rabri Devi government in Bihar, the Union cabinet on Monday decided to revoke President's rule in the state.
Home minister L.K. Advani and parliamentary affairs minister P.R. Kumaramangalam informed the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha simultaneously about the cabinet decision.
The decision followed the rejection by the Congress of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's last-minute appeal to party president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday night to reconsider the decision to oppose Central rule in the state. The ruling coalition, which got the proclamation on President's rule ratified by the Lok Sabha, was not in a position to do so in the Rajya Sabha where it is in a minority.
President K.R. Narayanan, who was away in Khajuraho during the day, withdrew the proclamation of imposition of Central rule in Bihar on his return to New Delhi late in the evening.
Earlier in the day, the government's decision was greeted with thumping of desks by opposition members, especially those belonging to the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party, in both Houses.
Soon after the Lok Sabha met for the day, leader of the opposition Sharad Pawar demanded that the government keep its promise about making a statement on Bihar. Mr Advani said he was prepared to make a statement immediately but sought the chair's direction whether it could be made at noon, after question hour, since it could then be made simultaneously in both Houses.
In the Lok Sabha, the opposition criticised the government for undermining the authority of Parliament by deciding to revoke Central rule. The CPM went to the extent of demanding its resignation.
Congress chief whip P J Kurien said by not abiding by the constitutional requirement of taking the statutory resolution on President's rule to the Rajya Sabha, the ruling party had ``undermined the authority of Parliament and taken the House for a ride''.
Terming it as a ``black day'', CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said the government had brought the resolution with much bravado knowing all the time that it had no chance of getting it approved by the Upper House. ``They should resign,'' he said.
Mr Kumaramangalam explained that since it had become clear that the resolution could not be passed in the Upper House, the government, after making a ``last-ditch effort'' by talking to the Congress president, had decided to revoke Central rule in the state.
The Left parties charged the Vajpayee government of ``persistently misusing'' Article 356 to dislodge an elected government, saying revocation of President's rule in Bihar was a victory for democratic forces in the country.
``No other Union government has been so brazen or authoritarian in its persistence to misuse the draconian provisions of Article 356,'' the CPM and the CPI said in a joint statement.
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav demanded the immediate resignation of the Vajpayee government. Speaking to reporters, he said governor Sunder Singh Bhandari would also have to go. ``But the BJP-led government must immediately resign,'' he said.
``So much time has been wasted in Parliament over the Bihar issue and I want to know who is responsible for this,'' he said. ``This government is fully responsible and it must resign immediately.''
The revocation, he said, also amounted to ``an insult'' to the President who would have to issue another proclamation revoking the Central rule.
RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav said the government took the decision to impose President's rule under pressure from its ally, the Samata Party. He said the government tried every effort to avoid taking the statutory resolution to the Upper House as it was aware of the consequences.
Favouring a ``secular person'' in place of Mr Bhandari, he suggested that the Centre propose a set of names for the governor's post to the state government.
Mr Yadav asserted that the reinstalled Rabri Devi government would provide adequate security to Dalits and other weaker sections of society, initiate land reforms, economic development and adequate supply of water and electricity.