The demand of BJP leaders to impose President’s Rule in West Bengal ahead of the assembly elections next year has already ignited a political row in the state. However, there is nothing new in demands as there have always been such calls in the past as well. The question is will Article 356 be imposed in the state.
Union minister Babul Supriyo had demanded imposition of Article 356 in Bengal as he claimed that the law and order situation in the state isdeteriorating, and the state is a rarest of rare case, necessitating the President’s Rule.
Supriyo is not alone. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is the party’s in-charge for West Bengal, had said, “Law and order machinery has collapsed in West Bengal. Infiltrators are pouring in. Contract killing of political workers is on. In these challenging times, we have asked the Central government to impose President’s Rule or the Election Commission should ensure that people cast their vote without fear.”
Another BJP leader, Saumitra Khan, had said no election can be possible under the administration of Mamata Banerjee.”
TMC MP Saugata Roy dared the BJP to impose the President’s Rule in the state. Bengal minister Bratya Basu echoed similar sentiments.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who has a major say in imposing the President’s Rule, had earlier accepted the demand of the BJP heavyweights who claimed that this is necessary to ensure “impartial administration” to conduct free and fair polls. However, the responsibility to ensure free and fair polls rests with the Election Commission of India, and not the Union home minister. The EC can certainly seek support from the Centre on the issue.
While the ECI has the power to remove any officer from the post, it does not have the teeth to punish them. For the past two decades, the Election Commission of India tagged many top officials—police and general administration—of different states as ‘politically biased’, but they were back in their chairs as soon as the polls were over. In West Bengal, both the Left front and Banerjee government had rewarded such “politically biased and officially tagged” officers after the polls.
“The task of the Central government is to bring legislation to punish such officers. Only then such vices would stop,” said a retired IPS officer of Bengal.
Shah had said he was waiting for the Governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, to submit his final report on the state. Governor, according to the Constitution, in this case, plays a key role. The governor’s report is taken seriously by the Supreme Court of India. It is to be noted that Banerjee and Dhankhar are at odds.
Another cause of concern for parties that are not in power in the state is the fact that even if the administration is under the control of the EC, the law and order, until the election result day, is with the state government. The chief minister is responsible for the possible law and order situation while the Election Commission is liable only if it affects the process of election.
It is also to be noted that there has always been a demand for imposing the President’s Rule in Bengal regardless of who is in power in the state. The BJP is only doing what Mamata Banerjee used to do when she was in opposition—demanding the President’s Rule during elections.
This is primarily because the administration is always loyal to the political parties in power in Bengal. The state is also unique from the point that even a block development officer’s annual confidential report (ACR) is prepared every year by the CM Banerjee, and not by the chief secretary. Such a tradition was started during the left rule, though not at the level of BDO.
According to sources, Dhankhar had made a presentation on how such a decision makes people in administration always loyal to the political bosses.