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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 22, New Delhi, May 15, 2021

Initiate talks for a National Government | Anil Nauriya

Friday 14 May 2021, by Anil Nauriya


I would like to highlight a few considerations from a political and Constitutional angle. Perhaps these would strike a chord also with Democratic Socialists of various persuasions.

1. There needs to be National Mourning until the current public health crisis lasts. This would emphasise in a formal way to all in the Indian state and outside it the gravity of the crisis before the country. At the moment various sections of the state go into denial at the earliest opportunity or excuse.

2. The President of India and BJP Parliamentarians in particular need to understand that the incumbent PM, incumbent Home, Foreign and Health Ministers, incumbent Chief Ministers of UP and Uttarakhand and the Election Commissioners, to go no further, have lost domestic and international credibility and must quit.

3. The President of India needs urgently to start talks to constitute a National Government so as to resuscitate Governance. The focus must be on protecting the "well-being of the people of India" as required by the Presidential Oath under Article 60 of the Constitution of India.

4. There is nothing unconstitutional about a National Government. The President of India needs the statesmanship immediately to start talks for it. The Public Health crisis is only the most pressing reason for this. It is in fact the only pre-2024 way to get Governance on its feet.

5. A few days ago, on 8 May, it was the anniversary of the British Parliamentary debate in 1940 that had led to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s resignation, even though he enjoyed a majority in the House, and the formation of an all-party National Government.

6. Lloyd George had spoken in the debate: " I say solemnly that the Prime Minister should give an example of sacrifice, because there is nothing which can contribute more to victory in this war than that he should sacrifice the seals of office."

7. A vote on an adjournment motion moved by Herbert Morrison was actually won on that day by Neville Chamberlain’s Government by 81 votes. Chamberlain resigned despite his majority.

8. His successor Churchill records Chamberlain’s reasons: "He felt he could not go on. There ought to be a National Government. One party alone could not carry the burden. Someone must form a Government in which all parties would serve, or we could not get through."

9. That is how a National Government including Conservative, Labour, Liberal, National Liberal, National Labour & some Non-Party members was formed in Britain on 11 May 1940 despite the fact that the outgoing PM had a majority and had just won a majority vote in the House.

10. Yesterday was 11 May, the day in 1940 when a National Government assumed charge in the United Kingdom. As mentioned above, Neville Chamberlain, who had a majority and had won a majority vote, quit because he felt that the crisis required an All-Party Government.

11. In independent India too the early Governments led by Jawaharlal Nehru were National Governments in the sense that there were several non-Congress ministers despite the fact that the Congress had a parliamentary majority. The non-Congress ministers included such persons as B.R. Ambedkar, Shanmugham Chetty, John Mathai, C. D. Deshmukh, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Sardar Baldev Singh. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also kept inviting Socialists to return to the Government.

12. The words: "I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India" inserted by the Constituent Assembly in the Presidential Oath under Article 60 were not intended to be without deep meaning. They do not figure in any other national oath.

13. Devotion to the ’service and well-being of the people’ is an obligation in the unique Presidential Oath under Article 60. If the President of India rises to the occasion, it could help resuscitate the political, social and economic atmosphere, restore morale and streamline the health scene in India.

14. The President needs to call the current Prime Minister for a frank talk and explain to him that the country and its people are bigger than a few individuals. It will be useful if some political parties and groups tell the President this.

15. The President of India is not a constitutional cipher. For example, President Radhakrishnan did advise PM Jawaharlal Nehru on 23 October 1962 to make certain changes in his Cabinet.

16. It is necessary to stress that the 2019 mandate now exists only technically. Its substratum has been eroded by events and its political legitimacy no longer obtains. A ruling dispensation without political legitimacy cannot be kept aloft.

Anil Nauriya

New Delhi

12 May 2021

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