It’s Deja Vu all over again, a replay of what we’d been through in the early part of 2015 when majority of the NPF legislators ganged up to oust Chief Minister TR Zeliang and NPF President Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu from their seats. The dissidents then too, had their own President, Chief Ministerial candidate replete with their own Chief Whip. But this time round, they have the Speaker on their side.
The Sovima Campers, as they came to be known then, even had quite a handful of party functionaries on their side and a well-equipped team of spin-doctors spinning incredible yarns day in and day out till the misadventure fizzled out. The Governor then was our very own beloved Mr PB Acharya, and he favoured the majority of the legislators at that point of time too. He dilly-dallied even when the Chief Minister asked for a Vote of Confidence and when he did call for a floor test on February 5, 2015 (after a lapse of exactly one month when the crisis started), we found a few pertinent points from which we all learned a lot:
- The Sovima Camp’s Whip was no use at all except to use it to whip the flies off the noses of cattle in the plains of Sovima: Kiyanilie Peseyie, who was appointed by the NPF party President as Chief Whip of the party on November 14, 2014, and notified by the Assembly Secretariat the next day, was found to be the legal Whip of the NPF party and all the dissident legislators almost sprained their shoulders on that fateful February 5 morning in the Assembly raising their hands in the air in favour of the Vote of Confidence moved by the Chief Minister TR Zeliang, later telling the press corps pianissimo, “We voted for the DAN Coalition, not for TRZ”! Whether they voted for him or not, TRZ had the last laugh, and Kiyanilie was found not only to use the strip of leather with dexterity, but that he was the authorized and legal person to use the whip to keep straying steers to toe the line of the party.
- We learned that it is the political party, and not the legislature of the party, which appoints the party Chief Whip. The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India is very clear on this: Para 2 (1) (b) says, “If he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by the political party to which he belongs or any person or authority authorised by it in this behalf, without obtaining, in either case, the prior permission of such political party, person or authority…”
- Many of us at that point of time Googled for the dictionary meaning and came up with the political meaning of the Whip as “A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party’s “enforcers”, who typically offer inducements and threaten party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy.” Automatically, we drew the conclusion that the political party appoints a Whip to ensure that legislators do not err and stray from the directions of the political party they belong to, and not vice versa.
- The President of NPF is elected along with the Central Office Bearers and the Central Executive Council members in a General Convention convened with wide publicity not less than a month ahead and with no less than two-third present and voting. The NPF Constitution is also conspicuously silent on the removal or impeachment of the party President.
With all these in mind, the present political developments beggar some urgent answers:
- TRZ was expelled from the NPF party for a period of six years on the very day he was sworn in as the Chief Minister on July 19, 2017. The same day, the Assembly Secretariat issued a communication stating that the NPF Legislature Party had “informed the Speaker” that TRZ was appointed as the Whip for the NPF Legislature party with effect from July 4, 2017. When the floor test was conducted on July 21, 2017, TRZ’s Whip was given preference by the Speaker. Now, what beats logic black and blue is this: How can an expelled member of a political party be accepted as the Chief Whip of the very political party from which he is expelled?
- The Assembly Secretariat was also deafeningly silent on what happened to the appointment and notification of Kiyanilie Peseyie dated November 15, 2014 it itself circulated as the Chief Whip of the NPF party. Kiyanilie’s appointment has not been rescinded till date, nor has his appointment been de-notified as yet. It would seem that the piece of leather Kiyanilie used so effectively to tame the most recalcitrant delinquent in 2015 has now grown soft and flaccid, all thanks to the Assembly Secretariat which has not given any legal or logical explanation in 2017! The whip that lashed so furiously in 2015 has been given a premature death now, and the Legislature’s whip has been given preference to protect the interests of the legislators.
- Perhaps, it is for the first time in the history of parliamentary democracy that the Chief Whip of a political party has been elected/ appointed by the legislators without the consent, knowledge or approval of the political party they belong to, and the person elected is an unattached member of the House being expelled from the very political party from wehich he has been expelled! And it could also be a sort of history that the Speaker had communicated an intimation and treated that intimation as acceptance of a Chief Whip of a political party even though the latter was in the dark.
- The icing on the cake is that the Custodian of the Constitution of India here in the State actively engaged himself in this desecration of Constitutional provisions, norms and legalities!
It is apparent that laws and norms have been flouted and caution thrown to the winds. Both the Offices of the Speaker and the Governor have actively taken part in this legal perversion. But not unlike 2015, the protagonists in this coup have forgotten to take along with them their legal baggage. And it is now up to the Courts of law to interpret the laws of the land.
(The writer belongs to a political party. These are his personal views)
This Press Release was sent by Sebastian Zumvu, who can be contacted at sebastian(dot)zumvu(at)gmail(dot)com.