Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with ‘President’s Rule’, became a key topic of political discourse recently when it was imposed in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. President’s Rule is imposed on a state where the constitutional machinery has failed, for instance, the results of an election are inconclusive or the coalition is broken. In such a situation, the Centre takes over the administration of the state through the Governor. However, President’s Rule has been imposed in Indian states for various other reasons in the past. Here is a broad classification of why states have come under President’s Rule.
Here is a broad classification of why states have come under President’s Rule:
1. Territorial Politics
Division and separation of a state in terms of geography is one of the reasons that lead to the imposition of President’s Rule. Andhra Pradesh was under President’s Rule in 2014 when the Parliament passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill to bifurcate it and create Telangana. The Assembly of the Union Territory of Goa was dissolved to conduct an opinion poll over the merging of Goa with Maharashtra in 1966. The agitations for Statehood in Manipur and Tripura also led to President’s Rule in the states in 1969 and 1971 respectively. These were ultimately revoked in 1972 after the formation of the states. Similarly, President’s Rule took over to facilitate the separation of Punjab and Haryana in 1966.
The agitations for Statehood in Manipur and Tripura also led to President’s Rule in the states in 1969 and 1971 respectively. These were ultimately revoked in 1972 after the formation of the states. Similarly, President’s Rule took over to facilitate the separation of Punjab and Haryana in 1966.
2. Political Instability
When a state government loses its majority due to a split in the party or because of the withdrawal of any coalition partner, President’s Rule is imposed. Following a controversial confidence vote in the respective assemblies, the governments of Tamil Nadu (1988), Gujarat (1996) and Nagaland (2008) collapsed. After the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) broke up with the Congress, Maharashtra saw a President’s Rule in 2014. Similarly, in 2013, BJP government in Jharkhand lost its majority when the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) withdrew its support. After a fractured verdict in the 2015 assembly elections, J&K faced President Rule for 51 days. Kerala and Jharkhand have encountered the rule thrice and Karnataka four times on account of their governments losing majority.
In December 2018, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was put under President’s rule owing to a political crisis which emerged after BJP pulled out of an alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP (People’s Democratic Party). As a result, Mufti’s led coalition was reduced to a minority in the state.
3. Government Dismissal
Originally, loss of majority or a breakup in the coalition were the main reasons for the imposition of President’s Rule. However, on many occasions in the 1970s and 80s, state governments were dismissed in spite of a comfortable majority in the Assembly. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) Government in Assam was dismissed due to internal security threats caused by the activities of the militant organisation United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in 1990.
Bihar came under President’s Rule twice as a result of revenge politics. In 1977, the Congress Government in the state was dismissed by the Janata Party led Central Government and in 1980 the Indira Gandhi-led Centre did the same by dismissing the Janata Party Government. The Chief Minister of Goa resigned after the High Court disqualified him, leading to government dismissal in 1990. More recently, Delhi came under President’s Rule after Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal resigned for failing to table the Jan Lokpal Bill and the rule was imposed in Jammu & Kashmir after the passing of CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2016.
4. Indecisive Elections
Time and again, State Assembly elections have come up with outcomes that do not fulfill the democratic criteria for establishing a government. Uttar Pradesh, with its many major political parties and complex political equations, has had President’s Rule twice because of inconclusive electoral outcomes, in 1995 and 2002.
The 2005 elections in Bihar, 2002 elections in Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala and Rajasthan in 1967 also emerged with imperfect results. Neither a single party nor any coalition arrangement could form a government with a majority. Inability to achieve the required numbers in the assembly forced the Central Government to impose President’s Rule in these states.
5. Law & Order Crises
Apart from the breakdown of democratic machinery, President’s Rule is also imposed in the case of deteriorating law & order in the state. The inability of state governments to maintain the peace in their states forces the Centre to step in and take charge. In these cases, the Governor of the state along with the local administration uses the logistical and armed support to maintain peace. The instance of Dalit killings in Bihar forced the Vajpayee Government to impose President’s Rule in 1999. During the Kashmir insurgency, various acts of violence by the separatists and militants in the state led to the imposition of Governor’s Rule in 1990. Unfortunately, Punjab has been the victim of Article 356 for disrupted law & order twice, first in 1983 and again in 1987, both times were the result of violent clashes between armed forces and Khalistani militants. In the North-East, states have been under President’s Rule several times due to law & order situations. This includes Assam (in 1979) due to the ‘Assam Agitation’, which was a protest against foreign nationals living in Assam, Nagaland (in 1992) because of law and order crisis and Tripura(in 1993) led by political violence.
Article 356 was used for the first time to dismiss the democratically elected Communist government of Kerala in 1959. The rule has come into action 126 times. Manipur is most familiar with the law, with an experience of 10 times. Chattisgarh and Telangana are the only states which have remained untouched by the rule. President’s Rule has many political implications, the major one being an attempt by the Central Government to extend its influence in the states. This could be seen in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh recently. It could reflect badly on the party at the Centre or the one in the state. Implications of the recent President Rules in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh will be seen when the states go into elections in the next few years.
Here’s why President’s Rule was imposed in Arunachal Pradesh.