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BJPs goose in UP becomes a gander in Gujarat

Unwilling to accept the Election Commission decision on elections in Gujarat, the Vajpayee government at the Centre has sought the Supreme Court's opinion through Presidential reference on whether or not the provisions of Article 174 were mandatory under all circumstances. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh had adopted a different stand on the Article 174 only in October last year.The Article 174 states that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two successive sessions of the legislative Assembly. The BJP as well as the Gujarat government interpret it to mean that the electoral process in Gujarat should have been completed early to enable the assembly to meet on October 3 when the six-month period ends. The Election Commission, however, maintained that under extraordinary circumstances, the Article 174 must necessarily yield to Article 324 that grants it the sole discretion for the conduct of elections, and it decided to hold the polls in Gujarat late this year or early next year. But the BJP could not reconcile to the decision of the poll body because it had been expecting to exploit the sentiments of the majority community created in the wake of the carnage.
The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh led by Rajnath Singh had, however, taken a diametrically opposite stand in October last year on the interpretation of Article 174. Opposing a petition filed by a state legislator in a similar case, the then BJP government in the state argued that Article 174 refers only to the period between two sessions of the same house and not successive legislatures. The petitioner had then contended that the gap between the last sitting of 12th Assembly and the first sitting of the 13th Assembly should have been less than six months. That argument of BJP shows that it would be legally correct if the Gujarat elections are held as late as April next year. The case is still pending in the court.

The last sitting of the 12th Assembly of UP was held on September 28 last year and if the Article 174 is applied in this case, the first sitting of the 13th Assembly should have been held before March 28 when the six-month time expires. But after the elections proved a fractured verdict in March, the house could not meet by that date. President's rule was then imposed in the state and the assembly was put under suspended animation. The first sitting of the 13th Assembly was held on May 15 after the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party joined together to provide a coalition government under Ms. Mayawati. Though there was more than six months time between the two sessions of the assemblies, there was a period of President's rule in between. But there was continuity between the two assemblies because the 12th Assembly was not dissolved and the 13th Assembly was put under suspended animation for a couple of months.

Significantly, the Uttar Pradesh government was then represented in that case among others by the present Solicitor General Harish Salve along with his boss Soli Sorabjee Salve was also present at the Union cabinet meeting on August 18 which took the decision to refer the issue to the Supreme Court. The ruling party had apparently practised double standards in interpreting article 147 to suit its contradictory interests in UP and Gujarat.

PM Damodran in Lucknow

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