Published : Oct 24, 1998 00:00 IST

The Bihar fiasco

The Cover Story, which featured candid interviews and an excellent editorial, gave a comprehensive picture of the Himalayan blunder committed by the BJP in Bihar ("BJP's Bihar fiasco," October 23).

President K.R. Narayanan hit the nail on the head by explicitly expressing his opinion that the Bihar Governor had not adduced adequate reasons to support his case that the constitutional machinery had failed in Bihar and that the Centre did not issue warnings or directives to the State Government - which, incidentally, enjoys majority support in the Assembly - before resorting to Article 356. By returning to the Union Cabinet its recommendation, the President made it clear that he is no rubber-stamp President.

Dismissing State governments at the stroke of a pen is not possible in the present political situation which is in a state of flux. The BJP's coalition partners pull in different directions and indulge in doublespeak. It is better for the Vajpayee Government to set its house in order first before trying to set things right in the States.

Mani Natarajan Chennai* * *

It was indeed a blunder on the part of the A.B. Vajpayee Government to have sent the recommendation to the President knowing full well that he would return it. K.R. Narayanan had proved earlier by returning the I.K. Gujral Government's recommendation to dismiss the Kalyan Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh that he was not a rubber-stamp President and that he would not compromise himself in the matter of upholding the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

A wise government should be able to anticipate the consequences of its decisions. The fact that the Vajpayee Government accepted the President's decision has given the impression that it did not have any strong conviction in the matter of dismissing the Bihar Government.

K. Kumara Sekhar Eluru, Andhra Pradesh* * *

The Bommai judgment has laid down the guidelines for invoking Article 356. Although the BJP had doubts whether the Cabinet recommendation on Bihar would be accepted by the President, it went ahead with its decision in order to get a respite from the pressure exerted by the Samata Party to have the Rabri Devi Government dismissed. At the same time, the President's action served as a warning to the AIADMK which has been demanding the dismissal of the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP-led Government cited reasons such as misgovernance and corruption for the action it proposed against the Bihar Government. It is the people who have to take a decision in such matters. Who is to assess the extent of maladministration?

However, your articles neither present the actual situation in Bihar nor suggest ways to save Bihar from its crises, if any. Many questions remain unanswered. What should the Centre do in the case of a State which is on the verge of financial and administrative collapse? What are the corrective measures to be taken in the case of Bihar now? Only a debate on the scope and limitations of Article 356 can provide the answers.

Rakesh Negi Delhi* * *

We would like to congratulate the President on his having acted wisely and boldly in such a situation. We would also like to congratulate your team on the feature on Bihar. The revelation of some of the important facts regarding Article 356 was very useful. Your correspondent Sudha Mahalingam deserves praise for having gained access to the President's Minute.

The story brings out clearly how Article 356 has been sought to be misused by the Government for political gain. Such stories would bring about social awakening and lead to the creation of a good social system.

Prashant Jain Kapil Jain Shridham, Madhya Pradesh

Coalition pressures

The fissures in coalitions, such as the BJP-Shiv Sena front, no longer make news ("More fissures in a front", October 9). Similar aberrations have taken place in other States and at the Centre where the pattern of one-party rule has come to an end. Even major parties like the Congress(I) and the BJP have realised that the system of coalition governments has come to stay. The Congress(I) is still undecided on staking its claim to form a government at the Centre with the help of parties such as the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. For the BJP, managing the day-to-day affairs of its government itself has become a tough task. The situation reflects our failure to evolve a civil society which is not divided by differences of caste, religion, sect, language and so on.

S.N. Phadnis MumbaiAssam violence

"Bloodshed in Assam" (October 9) is a grim reminder of the situation in the Bodo-dominated areas of lower Assam. It is clear that the 1993 Bodoland Accord has failed. Neither the Bodos nor non-Bodos are safe in this area. The P.K. Mahanta Government seems to be a silent spectator and the Centre appears to have ignored the problem. The Union Home Minister and the Defence Minister do visit the State but they are at sixes and sevens on the Bodoland problem.

The Bodo militants want all the minorities to leave "Bodoland". Such an emotive issue is bound to find wider support among Bodos who might think that their hope lies in an independent Bodoland. But even if the militants' dream of an independent Bodolond comes true, Bodos will realise that what they were chasing was a mirage, for the movement is led by a few militant leaders who want to have a bigger share of the cake. It is high time the militants realised that they would have to work along with non-Bodos for the economic development of this neglected region.

D.B.N.Murthy BangaloreChief Justice of India

The appointment of Dr. Adarsh Sen Anand as the Chief Justice of India is expected to revolutionise the Indian judiciary ("A new Chief Justice", October 9). He is gifted with all the qualities necessary for an ideal judge. Dr. Anand is a champion of human rights and has made major contributions in the field of Indian criminal justice. He is in favour of reforming the judiciary, especially enhancing judicial discipline and ensuring speedy disposal of cases.

Rahul Jain Cardiff, United KingdomSino-Indian relations

The publication of detailed first-hand reports on China ("Sino-Indian relations: What lies ahead?" September 25) is a commendable exercise. Your efforts will remove the misconceptions and strengthen the bonds between India and China. A similar effort is needed to improve relations with Pakistan and Myanmar as well. As your reports show, the Chinese are mature in their reactions. They are practical as well as diplomatic. India's Defence Minister and Prime Minister must learn from the Chinese the art of employing diplomatic language.

The reports were well documented and the photographs were superb, but some ideas seem to be biased. The stand that "the unscientific and outdated view that China is in occupation of vast Indian territory..." certainly needs a rethink on your part.

Sheojee Singh Patna* * *

The views of the Chinese scholars and the picture feature on China were interesting. The article gave an excellent background of Sino-Indian relations over five decades, especially the marked improvement in the last decade, achieved through strenuous efforts.

It was not proper for the Prime Minister to have written to a head of state complaining against a neighbouring country on the basis of a threat perception and in defence of the Pokran-II misadventure. However, the optimistic note in the Cover Story that "the situation is far from irremediable" is encouraging. The thrust of these thematic articles is that India and China should realise that they are developing countries and have to improve the living standards of their people in the context of rampant globalisation.

Good-neighbourly relations between the two Asian giants will provide avenues for development, security, peace and prestige - more than what a few nuclear bombs may provide. To contain the damage caused by the post-Pokhran II outbursts, the BJP-led Government should shelve the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's jingoistic line and resume the process of consultation with its allies as well as the Opposition parties on matters related to foreign policy. It should revive the process of confidence-building between India and China.

C.R. Bhat Dharwad, Karnataka* * *

It was wrong for some Central Ministers to have made remarks that antagonised China or challenged Pakistan after Pokhran-II. It is puerile to think that this nuclear achievement will alone elevate India to the status of being a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. To become a political giant, India will have to become an economic giant first. When India was rejoicing over its victory in the 1971 war Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto taunted India, saying that Mumbai alone one million people slept on footpaths.

Despite all this, India's security environment calls for a minimum credible nuclear deterrent. Our friend Russia is facing an economic crisis. China will now treat India with more respect. But the negative fallout is that Pakistan feels that it has acquired strategic parity with India. Anyway, the triangular relationship among China, India and Pakistan has now to be based on equality.

Prem Behari Lucknow* * *

The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, both highly experienced and seasoned political leaders, seem to have mishandled Sino-Indian relations. They were not able to convince the rest of the world that the nuclear tests were for peaceful purposes or because of a threat from any country. No effort was made to convince India's immediate neighbours - Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Burma and Pakistan - of its arguments.

The endeavours of dedicated Indian scientists would have been lauded by the world, particularly Third World countries, if there was positive publicity for scientific work done for development and for the welfare of the people.

China is perhaps the only nuclear weapon power that has declared that it will not use nuclear weapons first in a war. Its position is that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states or in nuclear-weapon free zones. Being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has a great responsibility.

India and China have a shared cultural and religious history. Buddhism was born in India but is practised by the majority in China. The two countries must "untie the knot tied by them" for the welfare of their peoples.

Govind Reddy Hyderabad* * *

This refers to the article "Clearing the atmosphere" by Ye Zhengjia (October 23).

In 1962, India underestimated the military strength of China and mistook its patience for weakness. We had to pay a heavy price for that. Anyhow, the war taught India a few lessons. One of them is that to command real respect from other countries we have to be strong economically and militarily, besides being united.

K. S. Rama Iyer PondicherryRussian crisis

Russia is on the brink of a total collapse ("Russia on the brink", September 25). The present crisis was created by President Boris Yeltsin.

The catastrophe was set in motion by the policies of glasnost and perestroika of the Gorbachev era but Yeltsin carried these to the extreme. Those who advocated the restructuring had no foresight. They let the genie out of the bottle with a view to liberalise and restructure the Soviet economy (with tacit support from the United States). But the genie has overwhelmed them too.

Where is the 'open market', 'liberalism', and 'democracy'? Are Russians able to buy what they want in the 'open market'? What happened to the rouble? The balance sheet of the 'new reforms' and the 'democratic' measures of the Yeltsin era are reflected in the form of increasing poverty, rampant corruption, urban gangsterism, child-selling, sexual exploitation and what not.

The same state of affairs existed during the reign of the tsars. Russians would seem to have learned no lesson from history. The German philosopher Hegel said that the greatest lesson that history taught us is that nobody learns from history. Let us hope that Russians will be able to save their society and economy from the present mess.

P.K. Janardhanan Malappuram, Kerala
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