Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Feb 26, 2002
Industry & Economy - Politics
Government - States
UP to take time to get a `hung' of it
NEW DELHI, Feb. 25
WITH counting in two seats being suspended on account of suspected irregularities, the Samajwadi Party has consolidated its position in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly, registering a tally of 143 seats. With allies contributing another three seats, the SP is both the largest single party and leader of the largest pre-poll alliance.
Falling short of a legislative majority by over 50 seats, the SP has made a few overtures towards the Congress to secure the support of its 26 members. The Congress is likely to take time to respond since it remains preoccupied with the job of choosing new Chief Ministers in Punjab and Uttaranchal, where it has won unequivocal majorities.
The BJP has suffered serious reverses to finish with 88 seats, slightly over half its strength of 160 in the outgoing house. With its allies, notably the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, the BJP is expected to command a strength of 107 in the newly constituted legislature.
The biggest gainer has been the Bahujan Samaj Party, which has increased its strength by almost 50 per cent, finishing with 97 seats.
Senior State leaders, Mr Rajnath Singh, outgoing Chief Minister, and Mr Kalraj Mishra, have arrived in Delhi, where the BJP Parliamentary Board met this evening to take stock of the situation and weigh all its options. Making a brief statement afterwards, the BJP's national President, Mr Jana Krishnamurti, said that the party read the electoral verdict as a mandate for sitting in opposition. This was reaffirmed by Mr Mishra, leader of the UP unit of the party.
The BSP is reportedly waiting for a signal from the BJP about its intended course of action in the new circumstances. The BSP President, Mr Kanshi Ram, and its Chief Minister-in-waiting for UP, Ms Mayawati, have arrived in Delhi but have been inaccessible and have declined to make any public announcements.
Mr Vishnu Kant Sastri, Governor of UP, is expected to wait a few days for all prospective alliances to crystallise before he invites any claimant to form a ministry. A brief spell of President's rule is also considered a possibility.
Constitutional experts observe that there are diverse kinds of precedents that the Governor could follow in constituting the next ministry. After the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, President Shankar Dayal Sharma went by the narrow precedent of inviting the leader of the largest single party to form a government. This proved an unworkable solution since the first ministry of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee collapsed within 13 days.
After the UP Assembly elections of 1996, the Governor, Mr Romesh Bhandari, declined to follow this precedent and instead recommended an extension of President's rule beyond the Constitutionally sanctioned period of one year. The Allahabad High Court held his action unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court has not so far ruled on the matter, which is before a Constitution Bench.
The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, has since the indecisive outcome of the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, established the practice of seeking written statements of intent from all political parties seeking to form a post-poll alliance. Certain constitutional experts believe that this is the best practice, though others are not convinced that the head of state should get involved in the business of creating a viable legislative majority. The principle of the single largest party getting the first call, they believe, is still the best practice.
Meanwhile, two senior general secretaries of the Congress have left for Dehra Dun to oversee the meeting of the legislature party that will choose the next Chief Minister. The party still maintains that the next Chief Minister need not come from the ranks of the elected legislators.
No such ambiguity exists in Punjab, where the former Chief Minister Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, has said that she would not be staking a claim for the leadership of the legislature party. This seemingly leaves the course clear for the election of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, Captain Amarinder Singh, as the next Chief Minister.
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