A tale of four CMs
Nothing can be more bizarre than having four chief ministers in a state. By elevating his adviser Lyngdoh to the rank of a chief minister, the constitutionally sworn CM, D.D.Lapang has created history for the wrong reasons. Two others had been functioning in the same rank for close to a year and if one goes by the status, there are in all four chief ministers in this hill state.We had so far heard only of Haryana for the flip-flops of its MLAs which led to the coinage of the term “Aya Ram Gaya Ram’. But Haryana has never had this kind of dubious distinction of having four CMs or for that matter even two. There have been states with two deputy CMs as was the case under Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan during his first tenure. But this beats every thing in Indan politics.
One really wonders how the Congress, the oldest national party in the country could have allowed this to happen. If this has been done to address the question of political stability in the sensitive state, there were other ways also that were available. The state could have been put under President’s rule instead of making a spectacle of the worst in Indian politics.
Many argue that there is no provision of having even a deputy Prime Minister under the constitution but there have been at least five deputy PMs starting from Sardar Patel to Charan Singh, Jagjiwan Ram, Y.B.Chavan and L.K.Advani. The case of Sardar Patel falls in a different category since even without holding a position, he always enjoyed an elevated status in the party because of his contributions. Yes, every deputy PM is sworn only as a minister and the status given to him is not reflected in the constitution and is more to honour his political stature.
There is also a question of political compulsions, which lead to such an action. In 2006, a move was started by some in the Congress party to get a senior leader appointed as the deputy PM. The matter had reached a decisive stage but Congress President Sonia Gandhi realizing that the consequences of such an action could have disastrous impact on the future of Dr Manmohan Singh shot it down. Replying to my question at the Congress Chief Minister’s conclave in Nainital, she ruled out that any such decision was likely to be taken and said that the entire party was with Dr Manmohan Siugh.
Various CMs have found ways of going around the rule of having prescribed number of ministers related to the strength of their legislatures by appointing Parliamentary secretaries who are administered oath of office by the CMs and not by the Governor. Obviously, this is illegal and against the spirit of the constitution but this has been happening in virtually every state. As per the Parliament’s definition of a Parliamentary Secretary, he or she is equivalent to that of a deputy minister. Therefore if along with the parliamentary secretaries, the strength of the ministry exceeds the quota based on ten percent of the total strength of the legislature, it is an illegal act.
But the four CM formula takes the cake. It is perhaps derived from the new practice of giving Cabinet or MoS status to individuals functioning outside the ministries. For instance the NSA has a MoS status and the Chairman of the Minorities Commission has a Cabinet status. Similarly many functionaries of various commissions also enjoy similar facilities.
The official explanation as given by the Congress spokesman on Meghalaya is that there is only one CM but others have the rank of the CM. I do not know whether there is any point countering such an absurd thesis. Tomorrow it may be said that there is only one PM but three others who have his rank. I only hope this does not degenerate to that level.