Monday, January 26, 2009
The nation forgets Gulzarilal Nanda
I am disappointed that two major newspapers (read edits of Mail Today and Business Standard here and here) have opted to buy my friend Manoj Mitta’s thesis that there is a lacuna in Article 74. (Read my earlier post here). Both the newspaper editors, and Manoj seem to have forgotten that Gulzarilal Nanda was a full-fledged Prime Minister twice for 13 days each, once after Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died, and second, when Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died in office. Wikipedia entry on Nanda is partly incorrect in that it calls him interim Prime Minister. I repeat, he was a full-fledged Prime Minister, as there is no mention of an interim PM in our Constitution. Secondly, an absence from office should be construed as such: there cannot be temporary absences. Those who elected Nanda to the office of the Prime Minister twice knew that he was filling an interregnum, still chose him to succeed Nehru and later Shastri. Going by the current political practice, they could have asked Nanda to officiate without being sworn-in as the PM. But that did not happen. They went strictly by the Constitution. In my view, the Constitution makes no distinction between absences caused by death or illness. An absence has to be filled by a full-fledged Prime Minister. If the party which supports him feels he or she should be replaced after an interregnum, so be it and let him or her resign, and his replacement chosen to be sworn-in as the next PM. Let us not distort the mandate of the Constitution, in order to find justifications for the insecurities of the contemporary political leaders.