The Big Story: Cherry picking

Democracy evolved in England through a curious process. Till today, all laws assume the English monarch to be the executive. But gradually, the monarch ceded power to his cabinet – chosen by Parliament. What drove this change was the belief that by being elected, the monarch’s council of ministers had a much more legitimate claim to power than the unelected king. Rather than contest this legitimacy – and face the guillotine as many kings on the European mainland had done – the English monarch ceded power to democracy.

This formulation, that democracy legitimises executive power might seem a simple concept – but it is yet to sink in in Puducherry. While the Union territory has an elected government, its unelected Lieutenant Governor has left no stone unturned to try and weaken it. The latest battle comes as Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi contradicted Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on the number of seats under government quotas in Puducherry’s medical colleges. Bedi, in fact, even went ahead and allotted seats on her own to 26 students, ignoring instructions from the elected government. Due to this confused messaging, utter chaos now prevails in the medical admission space in Puducherry.

This is an old fight. In January, Bedi was adamant that the bureaucrats in the Puducherry administration would report to her and not the elected chief minister. She even staked claim to vet the budget, arguing, “I am not planning to run my office as a post-office.” In spite of not having the legitimacy of an election to back up her use of executive power, Bedi is quite open to exercising it. On social media, on Monday, she said, “It’s all about being a rubber stamp LG vs Responsible Administrator,” hinting that she was going to take the latter option.

That Bedi, an unelected official, could so brazenly talk about contesting the elected chief minister is a troubling development for democracy and federalism in India. During its rise, the Bharatiya Janata Party often spoke of federalism. During his time as chief minister, Narendra Modi would often talk of the overbearingness of the Union government, calling it the “Delhi Sultanate”.

While the Congress lost in 2014, it seems the sultanate survived. The Modi government is intent on replicating the Congress’ hyercentralisation. Bedi’s isn’t the only example. In the past three years, the Modi government has interfered widely with state governments, restricting the monies owed to them. In Tamil Nadu, the Union government has taken advantage of a power vacuum to push its agenda and in West Bengal, it rejected vital investment in order to flog the BJP-Trinamool rivalry.

Under Indira Gandhi, the Congress centralised itself hugely. Opposition state governments were hounded and Congress chief ministers were basically dependent not on their electorate but on the party high command for their survival. Before repeating this, the BJP must look back at this history and realise how counterproductive this centralisation was. Within five years of Indira Gandhi’s death, the Congress had lost its majority in the Lok Sabha.

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  1. Triple Talaq fails even on scriptural grounds. India must scrap the practice, as many Muslim nations have done, argues Arif Mohammad Khan in the Indian Express.
  2. The Modi government, which came to power on the promise of creating 20 million jobs per year, has not yet recognised the gravity of the situation, writes Himanshu in Mint.
  3. In the Economic Times, Boria Majumdar describes the downward slope Pakistan’s cricket team has been on.


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