On 8th Aug, Narendra Damordas Modi addressed the nation on the epochal occasion of abrogation of Art.370. He was born on 17th Sept, on 8th Nov- Demonetisation, on 26th Feb, Balakot surgical strike and on 06.08.2019- Art.370 became history and J&K Reorganisation Act was notified. What is it about ‘8’ that resonates with Modi? Is it a mere coincidence or he has planned it so. The more one thinks of it, the more one is bewildered at what the Modi/Shah combine has accomplished on the Art.370/35A front. What has stood on the statute book for nearly 70 years to the day, was peacefully obliterated in Parliamentary proceedings? Words fail to depict what the duo has achieved in terms of the historical context. It would be for history to judge the method had they had ingeniously devised and brilliantly executed. The fact that Narendra Damordas Modi had fixed Aug 7, 2019, for an address to the nation tells the diligence and meticulousness in timing it to perfection.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of Jan Sangh which morphed into BJP, strongly opposed Article 370 He raised his voice strongly against the provision in his Lok Sabha speech on 26 June (again 8) 1952. He termed the arrangements under the article as Balkanization of India and the three-nation theory of Sheikh Abdullah Mukherjee once said: “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi challenge” (A single country can’t have two constitutions, two prime ministers, and two national emblems). This statement was made by him on Aug 7th. No wonder, Prime Minister picked that day for national address. Give it to Modi- his 56-inch chest is showing far bigger as the opposition stands decimated.
The Rajya Sabha set a “new normal” in its “highly productive” 249th session, with extended sittings and a record number of bills disposed of, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said on Wednesday. He was speaking before adjourning the House sine die. A total of 32 bills were passed in 35 sittings, Naidu said. “This session is the best session in the last 17 years accounting for 52 sessions,” he said. Naidu also lauded the “mutual understanding” between ruling and opposition members in running the House smoothly.
“The House had 39 debates on legislative proposals and issues of public importance,” he said, adding that most of the debates were of “good quality” with all side presenting their views. Complimenting members, Naidu said this session is the fifth-best in the last 41 years. “This session has recorded best of all performances,” said Naidu. During this session, a total time of 19 hours and 20 minutes were lost in disruptions by opposition parties on several issues. “However, the House sat beyond extended time on 19 days and gained around 28 hours,” Naidu. The total time availed for the transaction of business was 195 hours.
It was more than a legislative miracle. Yes, the 303 plus majority in Lok Sabha came in handy. But that came about upon strenuous and back bending effort. They broke new records and territories even as they made mincemeat of what little opposition could muster. The floor management organised by BJP is unparalleled. The networking they appear to have done to isolate parties like TDP, BJD, BSP and AAP have paid rich dividends.
Modi 1.0 faced huge roadblocks in the Rajya Sabha. Passage of Bills got stuck in the Upper House and got referred to Standing Committees. Modi 2.0 learnt its lessons. It does not appear to be a work in progress now. NDA has mastered the art of floor management so much so, that they attained 2/3rds majority in both House for passing the J&K Reorganisation Act, which has now become law of the land with Presidential assent coming within hours of Lok Sabha trumping any semblance of protest with a 370 to 70 vote difference. It was an innings defeat for those who questioned the dispensation over this move.
But, what was accomplished is not stunning. It is mind-numbing. And above all else, what takes the cake is the study and scrutiny of the route to nullify the impact of Art.370 is painstaking and laborious. hours and hours poured over plotting it, like a Balakot surgical strike. The opposition was literally silenced into mute submission. Even the Congress ranks got split and the voting was as if it was a conscience vote without a party whip.
We have heard for long that Art.35A was introduced as an appendix to the Constitution via the Presidential Notification route in 1954. And when it was challenged before the top court as lacking in constitutional sanction, it was widely believed that Modi administration may well nullify via a Notification, which was permissible. But Modi bided its time. They had conceived a different plan to go an alternate route. They had to go the legal route as it would surely be subjected to a court challenge.
Art.367 came to the rescue of Modi 2.0. It contemplates that be it the Parliament or the Legislative Assembly or the Governor or President who made the law, it would apply for the exercise of authority by the other too. The meaning being that there would be no difference in the authority and substance of the law, be it made by Parliament or President or Governor. Parliament stepped in as the Legislative Assembly was dissolved and State was under President’s rule. Step in Parliament to request the President to apply all provisions of the Constitution to J&K without any exception. In one fell swoop, the potency of Art.370 was negated. The same manner in which Art.35A was deviously interpolated into the Constitution by the Nehru led Congress, was exploited to negate Art.35A itself. Brilliant conception and dexterous execution.
As a corollary born out of this schematic design to go the Art.367 route via Art.370(1) itself, the expression “Constituent Assembly’ as contemplated in the Proviso to Art.370(3) was altered to become Legislative Assembly now. The requirement that President had to obtain the concurrence of the “Constituent Assembly’ became concurrence from “Legislative Assembly”. Legislative Assembly stood dissolved. Governor was recognised by President to exercise the power of the Legislative Assembly. Presidential Notification took the concurrence of Governor recognised as representing the Legislative Assembly. The deed was done and the circle was complete.
Even as moves were afoot on the legislative side, the Government worked overtime overseas. Modi himself apprised Donald J Trump at the G20 summit. The External Affairs Minister briefed National Security Adviser of the USA, who came visiting too. The Islamic nations barring Pakistan were taken into confidence. May be China was kept in the cold as Ladakh was involved. All this showed up once the Bill was passed and it became an Act and Kashmir was integrated and India became a truly One State with One Flag and One Prime Minister that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee poignantly dreamed of.
Amit Shah demolished the opposition arguments with a factual detour over 70 years and the informative first-hand account from the Ladakh MP Tsering Namgyal’s was a glorious interlude. And on 8th Aug, as destiny would have it, ( mind you, most consider 8 as inauspicious so much so that vehicle registration numbers totalling 8 are abhorred not embraced), Modi shared his dreams for J&K with We The People.
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)