Unhealthy legacy of an Ex-President

Politicians choose to quote the precedent that suits their purpose

Unhealthy legacy of an Ex-President
Unhealthy legacy of an Ex-President

The Indian President, in particular, is supposed to uphold not only the Constitution but also precedents and conventions

The real culprit of the ongoing post-poll drama in Karnataka… actually died a few years ago. By his unwarranted and unjustifiable activism, former president K.R. Narayanan (1921-2005) not only disregarded a convention but also messed up Indian democracy. The denouement: in the event of every fractured mandate, there are endless debates about the proper course to be followed by the President or the Governor, along with such unedifying spectacles as herded lawmakers and horse-trading. For party bosses desperate to check poaching from rivals, the shielded resort becomes the last resort.

In order to comprehend the damage that Narayanan caused to democracy, we have to go back to 1989. The Congress was thrashed in the general elections, its numbers in the Lok Sabha coming down from 400-plus in 1984 to 194. The incumbent president, R. Venkataraman, first invited Gandhi, the Congress party being the single largest party in the House. Only after he declined the offer, the president invited V.P. Singh.

Venkataraman went by the so-called “arithmetic test/objective test.” On May 15, 1996, president S.D. Sharma followed this precedent and invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form the government. It was a decent test because it was based on arithmetic, which is an exact science.

Our democracy is based on the British model which lays considerable emphasis on precedent and convention

The test also got the judicial sanction, in the famous Bommai judgment (1994) of the Supreme Court. The late Karnataka chief minister S.R. Bommai was sacked owing to the withdrawal of the support of some of his own party members. As a result, the Centre dismissed his government. The apex court came up with a verdict which still figures in political discourse: only a floor test could determine whether or not a government enjoyed the support of the legislature, be it the Lok Sabha or a Vidhan Sabha.

The next man to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan was K.R. Narayanan. A Nehruvian and Congress sympathizer, he didn’t invite Vajpayee to form the government despite the fact that he had the highest number of Lok Sabha members with him. The two presidential precedents didn’t deter him, nor did the unambiguous apex court verdict in the Bommai case.

So, Narayanan cavalierly asked Vajpayee to submit proof in the form of letters of support to him. He not only transformed the hallowed Rashtrapati Bhavan into a post office but also rubbished an important precedent set by one of his predecessors (Venkataraman) that was followed by another (Sharma). In effect, he also trashed the Supreme Court verdict on Bommai.

Our democracy is based on the British model which lays considerable emphasis on precedent and convention. The Indian President, in particular, is supposed to uphold not only the Constitution but also precedents and conventions. And here was a head of the state who unwisely destroyed precedents and conventions.

This is not to say that Narayanan was a worthless man. A man of humble origins, from a Dalit family, he rose by sheer merit and diligence. He studied at the London School of Economics under the legendary Harold Laski, a letter from whom ensured his entry into the Indian Foreign Service. There is nothing on record to suggest that he was ever involved in any shady dealing or personal impropriety. But his disregard for precedents and conventions is a blot on his career.

For, mutually exclusive precedents have come into being. Politicians choose to quote the precedent that suits their purpose. Should the Karnataka Governor invite the Bharatiya Janata Party leader to form the state government? The saffron party can claim that, justifying it by citing the decisions of two former presidents and the Bommai judgment. Should he invite the post-poll alliance leader? Again, the Congress can refer to former president Narayanan’s example and justify its position.

It is time all political parties sat down together and did away with the multiplicity of precedents so that unnecessary confusion could be avoided in the future.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author. He upholds freedom of expression, individual liberty, free market, and open society. He has published three books till date. His website is http://www.thehinduchronicle.com/.
Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Latest posts by Ravi Shanker Kapoor (see all)

9 COMMENTS

  1. Sir you missed important point . Whether its Modi or Shah your own deeds and words will come back and haunt you if you are not at right side . In hurry Shah doing everthing possible to grab power even though they cannot do any good. Now 66 year old cunny fox congress giving BJPs recent blunders as examples to people . The congress is projecting itself as a very honest party and also convincing courts making BJP fool!!! There is a saying in Kannada ” Itta dhare , atta phuli ” means one side is wild tiger another side is raged bull . Both are dangerous and hence difficult to choose.

  2. Precedents are at times contradictory and so Presidents /Vice presidents/ Governors have to use discretion to take right decisions which again are subjected judicial review. But these Constitutional Heads must also remember that “the concept of conscience vote” propounded by Madam Indira Gandhi is also permanently relevant for consideration
    to any voting in any legislature irrespective of its consequence.

  3. Sorry to bring in this issue…
    I had a doubt about this K R Narayan …
    I guess he married some foreign lady…(a christian- some Burma, Thailand??)
    I vaguely remember him for his anti Hindu action..can’t remember exactly what.
    So all these years only congress people were there in judiciary too…. Now that when people in judiciary oppose congress they are called names or being humiliated via impeachment motion etc…

    • That is right. KR.Narayan was a crypto christian. Not someone like the present President Sri.Kovind who
      rose to distinction based on his own merit. kr.narayan was a stealth christian retaining Hindu name married to one burmese christian called usha. Plus guilty of supporting sonia alias antonio maino’s perjury of having the support of thoo seventhy thoo MPs.

      Nothing edifying at all about kr.narayanan.

  4. Khangress has done immense harm to India & its “high decibel noise” is that of crying baby crying at its highest pitch for self survival by few self serving mean individuals. If the Pappu’s daily outbursts indicate that he is likely to go insane in few months & seek mental asylum in some country very soon. The media also playing to fan the Khangress rumblings to incite otherwise common people, to create riots.
    I am still more surprised that many aged & normally intelligent people falling to lip the toes of Italian Bar maid & her insane son fondly called Pappu. What is that phenomenon that leads to such senile toe licking.

  5. The assertion that a person X was not involved in any personal impropriety is a rather strong one. The author is either biased, or not sufficiently informed, or is oblivious to the true meaning of his claim. That whole paragraph is an unnecessary digression. That written, I may also add that I don’t have any special knowledge of X.

  6. Despite Congress party has more MAPs than JDSu,proposing the post of CM to latter is as good as signing a blank cheque. Is this not corruption?

  7. Gone are the days when people had to consider many things in pseudo Democracy !!
    Post Truth’ realization is BIGOTRY !!
    WE DONT MIND BJP PURCHASING MLAs FOR BETTER FUTURE !!
    Ram temple SHOULD be constructed,
    Judiciary should be pruned of Congress nepotism,
    Temple trusts should be freed of govt control,
    Sonia n Rahul n Chidu should go to Tihar jail !!
    Us common people won’t listen to anybody in 2019 if things are not done !!

    • Yes
      Our India and it’s future are more important than the corrupt politicians and antinationals who bribe voters and divide people to grab power.
      Defections are not new to our political system. They encourage it when it suits them but oppose it when it affects them.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here