PM Modi Accuses Congress of ‘Misusing’ Article 356 on 90 Occasions | Explained

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday came down heavily on Congress and accused the party of adopting only “tokenism” in solving problems the country faced. He added that the grand old party was bothered only about its political ambitions and not the welfare of the nation. The Prime Minister also accused Congress of “misusing” Article 356 for 90 times.

PM Modi was replying to the Motion of Thanks debate on President Droupadi Murmu’s address in Rajya Sabha. As he rose to speak, opposition MPs, some holding placards, rushed into the Well shouting slogans against PM Modi and seeking a joint parliamentary committee probe into allegations levelled by the US short-seller Hindenburg Research against tycoon Gautam Adani.

Here’s What PM Modi Said

In his 90-minute fiery speech, PM Modi accused Congress of trampling on the rights of states and regional parties by dismissing elected governments on 90 occasions by “misusing” Article 356 of the Constitution. “Who are the people?” he asked and responded that Indira Gandhi alone had used the Article 50 times to dismiss governments.

“This country is not anyone’s fiefdom. Our policies reflect national and regional aspirations,” he said, adding, “But these people who are now sitting (with Congress), I want to expose them today.”

He then narrated how elected governments of the Left in Kerala, NT Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh, Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, and MG Ramachandran in Tamil Nadu were dismissed by Congress. And today these parties are sitting along with the Congress, he added.

“Congress trampled upon India’s federal structure. Congress has misused Article 356 for 90 times. Indira Gandhi misused Article 356 for 50 times…They had bothered regional leaders. They toppled Sharad Pawar-led government and tried to pull down the NTR-led government when he was in the US for medical treatment. The Congress had toppled many elected governments in the past,” PM Modi said.

The Prime Minister also alleged that Congress had committed sins in the past and is now trying to mislead the country.

What is Article 356?

Under Article 356 of the Constitution, President’s rule can be imposed in case of failure of constitutional machinery in State if the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

The article was used for the first time in Punjab in 1951. Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only states where the President’s rule has not been imposed so far, as per Wikipedia.

Earlier, this practice was (mis)used very often but was limited only after the Supreme Court established strict guidelines for imposing President’s rule in its ruling on the SR Bommai v. Union of India case in 1994.

President’s rule is imposed in a any state when –

• A state legislature is unable to elect a leader as Chief Minister for a time prescribed by the Governor of that state, at the Will of Governor.

• Breakdown of a coalition leading to the Chief minister having minority support in the House and the Chief minister fails/will definitely fail to prove otherwise, within a time prescribed by the Governor of that state.

Loss of majority in the assembly due to a vote of no-confidence in the house.

• Elections postponed for unavoidable reasons like war, epidemic, pandemic or natural disasters.

• On the report of the Governor of the state if said state’s Constitutional machinery or legislature fails to abide by Constitutional norms.

If approved by both houses, President’s rule can continue for six months. It can be extended for a maximum of three years with the approval of the Parliament done every six months.

‘Dead Letter of Constitution’

Bhimrao Ambedkar, chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India, referred to Article 356 as a “dead letter of the Constitution”. In the constituent assembly debate, it was suggested that Article 356 is liable to be “abused for political gains”.

Ambedkar replied, “I share the sentiments that such articles will never be called into operation and they would remain a dead letter. If at all they are brought into operation, I hope the President, who is endowed with these powers, will take proper precautions before actually suspending the administration of the provinces. I hope the first thing he will do would be to issue a mere warning to a province that has erred, that things were not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen in the Constitution. If that warning fails, the second thing for him to do will be to order an election allowing the people of the province to settle matters by themselves. It is only when these two remedies fail that he would resort to this article.”

(with inputs from PTI and Wikipedia)

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