Prez rule not a 'dead letter' as Ambedkar believed

The decision to impose President’s rule, the controversial provision in the Constitution that B R Ambedkar believed would remain a "dead letter", in Delhi is the 121st such incident in the history of independent India and the first for 2014.

The previous one was the invocation of the controversial Article 356 in Jharkhand on January 18 last year, when the JMM withdrew support to the BJP-led government in the state. In a striking similarity to the Delhi situation, erstwhile chief minister Arjun Munda resigned and sought dissolution of the state Assembly.

Article 356, which experts say is based on Section 93 of the India Act of 1935, is a much abused and debated provision of the Constitution and was hotly debated in the Constituent Assembly.

While members like H N Kunzru, P S Deshmukh, Shibban Lal Saxena and H V Kamath voiced concern over the provision, leaders like K Santhanam, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava supported it.

Summing up the debate in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar said he expected that such articles will never be called into operation.

“If at all they are brought into operation, I hope the President, who is endowed with these powers, will take proper precaution before actually suspending the administration of the province," he said.

The first Indian province to witness President's Rule was Vindhya Pradesh on April 8, 1949, under the India Act as the Constitution was not adopted. The section was invoked as the chief minister resigned and the President's Rule was revoked after the first general elections in March 1952.

The first state to be put under the President's Rule after adoption of the Constitution was Punjab, in June 20, 1951. According to political historians, the state was kept under suspended animation for almost 10 months to help the Congress to get its act together.
Among the states, Manipur was put under President's Rule for the maximum of 10 years, followed by Uttar Pradesh (9), Punjab, Bihar (8 each), Karnataka, Odisha and Puducherry (6 each).

According to an analysis by Bhagwan D Dua in his book “Presidential Rule: A Study in Crisis Politics”, imposition of the President's Rule was the highest during the 1966-77 period, when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. Her government invoked the provision 39 times while it was nine during Morarji Desai’s prime ministership.

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