Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee must dissolve the West Bengal Assembly if he is an honest democrat: Please try to follow Gerard Schröder’s example even slightly!

In my January 9 2007 article “Hypocrisy of the CPI-M” in The Statesman, I urged that West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should dissolve the West Bengal Assembly and go to the people.   I said then:

“All of 37% of those voting in the 2006 Assembly Elections voted for the CPI-M. By contrast, 41.2% voted for Trinamul and Congress together. Add also the 11.4% of those who voted for the Forward Bloc, RSP and CPI all of whom though part of the Left Front have been opposing the CPI-M on this cardinal issue. That constitutes prima facie evidence that a majority of 52.6% vs. 37% of voters may oppose the CPI-M’s present course of action. Mr Bhattacharjee heads a Government that is supposed to act not merely in the interest of members or groups of his own party or those who have flattered or financed it, but everyone in West Bengal including those who voted against the CPI-M as well as those who did not vote at all.

Gerhard Schröder dissolved the German Bundestag in 2005 though his own party held a majority there. He did so merely because his party lost a provincial election and he felt that indicated loss of confidence in it at the federal level also. Such is how genuine modern democracies work. In India to the contrary, we have had notorious misuse of the Constitution when State Governments were dissolved merely because they were ruled by parties opposed to that which had won a Union-level General Election. Even so, India remains a Parliamentary democracy at Union and State levels, and the Government of the day may advise the Head of State to dissolve the House and call for new elections to be held. It may do so even when there is no legal necessity to do so, i.e., even when it is secure with a majority of seats. It may do so because a political necessity has arisen for doing so.  If Mr Bhattacharjee is a genuine democrat, as he wishes to convey an impression of being, he should advise the Governor to dissolve the Assembly because the CPI-M wishes to go to the people to seek a mandate for its plans for the State’s industrialisation and forced acquisition of farm lands towards that end. The Trinamul, Congress, SUCI, Maoists and others including perhaps the CPI, FB, RSP and others will state their opposition, while he, Mr Nirupam Sen and their party will be able to articulate for West Bengal’s voters exactly what they propose to do and why. The CPI-M is adamant its cause is right while the Opposition have been agitating in the streets for months, and miniature civil war conditions now prevail in parts of rural Bengal; worse may be yet to come. There is only one way in a supposedly democratic society like ours to discover what should be done, and that is to dissolve the Assembly and call an election. Both sides will have a chance to articulate their positions to the public, and a vote will be held. There the matter would end. It is the one constructive way forward for the State, and indeed for the nation as a whole…”

With the results of the 15th General Elections to the Lok Sabha now proving  the general unpopularity of  the CPI(M) to be true, Mr Bhattacharjee has no moral alternative but to dissolve the  Assembly and seek new State elections.   Anything else would  permanently brand him and his party as less than honest in their commitment to democracy.  Gerard Schröeder dissolved a national parliament because of a  provincial result — the least that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee can do is dissolve the State-legislature because of a national result.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

Of related interest: “Once upon a time, not very long ago, there was something called “Brand Buddha”…See Anarchy in Bengal

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