Grey Wednesday

A week may be a long time in politics but last Wednesday was longer still. Indeed, it has not quite ended yet. It may end only when the result of the next general election is known. It was a bright white Wednesday for UPA in the first half of the day with Congress winning decisively in Karnataka and it got better with the adjournment of Parliament sine die. Then in the second half of the day, it became a black Wednesday. The executive lost its last fig leaf of respectability.

India now has neither a legitimate executive nor a functioning legislature. The Congress has achieved the first entirely on its own when caught with its emperor's clothes on by the Supreme Court. The BJP cooperated in stalling Parliament. The judiciary remains the only institution which can fulfill the hopes people had when the Constitution was adopted.

Not that the political party system cares. As ministers were heard saying to the media on Wednesday, the Congress had won in the people's court. That is all that matters. The nation's constitutionally sanctioned court can be ignored by those who think that the electorate's quinquennial judgment gives them untrammelled powers. The Congress, after all, has form in this matter. Indira Gandhi, its principal patron saint, argued the doctrine of the mandate. An electoral victory gives the government unlimited powers to mangle the Constitution as it likes. She showed how it could be done. India has never overcome that shock. As far as the Congress is concerned, Emergency comes back each time it is in power.

Not that the Opposition is any better. They have not been in office at the Centre for more than one full term. But there is not a thin paper between the two as far as the morality of how to behave when in office is concerned. So we shall pass a very unpleasant 12 months until the next general election decides who will wield power; the hardened professional of violating the Constitution or the new kid on the block.

... contd.

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