The Latest: Top stories of the day

  1. A suicide blast in a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday has killed at least 65 and injured more 300.
  2. President’s Rule has been imposed in Uttarakhand.
  3. World T20: India reach semis after magical Kohli knock even as Afghanistan stun the West Indies. Bad news for the Indian women’s team, though. It got knocked out after a three-run loss to the West Indies.

The Big Story: The Delhi Sultanate

President’s Rule was imposed on the state of Uttarakhand on Sunday. This was done a day before the Uttarakhand government, led by Chief Minister Harish Rawat of the Congress was to face a floor test in the Assembly. How could the Union government decide to dismiss the Uttarakhand government without referring to the Uttarakhand Assembly? What does it mean if the Assembly, elected by the people of the state to decide their future can simply be overridden by a stroke of the pen by bureaucrats and politicians from Delhi?

The technical reason for imposing Article 356 to dismiss the democratically elected government was a “breakdown of law and order”. Finance Minister Aurn Jaitley came out to defend the Union government’s decision by calling the Uttarakhand government “immoral” since, as he argues, it had continued to rule even after losing it majority. This was after nine rebels had rebelled against the ruling Congress. Of course, what drove the rebellion is unknown. And how Jaitely knew that the government is a minority government without a floor test in the Assembly will remain an enduring mystery.

President’s rule has a long and sordid history. It was first devised by the British as a colonial instrument of control. Section 93 of the Government of India Act 1935 enabled the British Indian government in Delhi to dismiss provincial governments run by Indian parties such as the Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League. At the time, naturally, the Congress opposed it but managed a neat U turn in 1947, when it was in control of the Union government. The instrument has been misused hugely, with everyone from Nehru to Indira Gandhi pushing a narrow party agenda to often dismiss democratically elected governments. So imperious is the Union government in its dealing with democratically elected Uttarakhand government that it even ignored the 1994 Bommai judgement, which made a floor test mandatory requirement for Article 356.

State governments are arguably India most important constitutional cog. The entire district administration, the police system, the transport infrastructure, water, agriculture ‒ the vital things that control Indian lives ‒ are managed by the state government. Yet, in a surreal display of diarchy, not only does the state government need to depend on handouts from the Union to do its work, it is even controlled politically by Delhi via Article 356. India is facing a crisis of governance. The over-centralised, overtly-constricted governance system is to blame for India’s inertia. Article 356 must go and power must devolve to states. Without federalism, democracy is incomplete.

The Big Scroll
What is the BJP’s game plan in imposing President’s rule in Uttarakhand? And it’s not only the BJP, of course. From Nehru to Indira Gandhi, use of Article 356 to push narrow party agenda has been a regular feature of India’s history as a republic.

Politicking & Policying
1. Defeat the Communist party of India (Marxist)-Congress unholy alliance, says West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as the state goes to the polls on April 4.
2. Preparing to milk the issue even more, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah wants his party to launch a campaign on nationalism.
3. In another first, a Pakistani team is to hold meetings with National Investigative Agency in Delhi today. The Pakistani team is helping India investigate the Pathankot terror attack.
4. “Right from the British Raj to post-Independence India, Bihar has not got justice,” complains Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
5. Mulayam’s daughter-in-law gets ticket from Lucknow in the upcoming 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

6. Conflict of interest: the husband of the judge hearing the bail plea of arrested Hyderabad Central University students and teachers works for a BJP lawmaker facing allegations of abetting Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide


1. In the Telegraph, Mukul Kesavan has some advice for the BJP: rather than be proud of Mother India, we should celebrate Indian mothers.
2. Hinduism, nationalism and socialism may be okay separately, but in equal combination they yield political nonsense, says TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan in the Business Standard.
3. Looking back at 1991: Pledging gold made everyone aware of the enormity of the crisis, and paved the way for economic reforms says C Rangarajan in the Indian Express.

Don’t Miss
Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus and godmen for comfort, asks M Rajshekhar.

What explains these sweeping changes in Punjab’s religious milieu? It is the rising uncertainty in people’s lives.

For decades now, the economic engines that pushed Punjab’s growth have been slowing. Farm growth, which peaked at around 5%-6% annually in the early 1980s, has slowed to around 1%-2% now.

Agriculture in Punjab, says Abhijit Sen, a former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, depended on two factors: “A state committed to running agriculture (like funding agricultural research and providing water), and a tradition of bequeathing all land to the firstborn, so that landholdings did not get smaller and smaller.”