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The Rediff Special/Onkar Singh
Bhandari makes a pitch for 'emergency government'
Former Uttar Pradesh governor and ex-foreign secretary Romesh Bhandari has found the Kargil crisis a godsend to bounce back into the limelight.
Bhandari, who has been left out in the cold by the Congress party after he was forced to relinquish gubernatorial office, dashed off a letter to President K R Narayanan on June 16.
In the letter he has argued that since the Bharatiya Janata Party government is only a caretaker one, it makes sense to install a national government in this hour of crisis.
"It is in the above context of Khargil [sic] that I am writing to you. I do so not as an office-holder of any party, or even at the behest of any political party. It is as a citizen of India. To my mind there appears to be no alternative to a National Government being formed. Let the National Government take the required decisions in respect of the aggression in Kargil and the forthcoming elections," Bhandari wrote.
But a week later he changed tack. National Government was out and in came an Emergency Government instead. "Emergency can only be imposed under Article 352 of the Constitution. The unanimous decision of the Union Cabinet has to be submitted to the President in writing. In view of various unprecedented factors as pertain today, the prime minister, while recommending the proclamation of emergency under Article 352, should simultaneously submit his resignation. Alternatively, he should declare that the President should have someone else to form a government. The President of India can then use his discretion under Article 75 and appoint someone else as prime minister to head an Emergency Government," he argues.
When asked if he was one of the contenders for the prime ministership should the President accept his suggestion, Bhandari said he was merely a former governor and there were far too many leaders in the queue for the post.
Is all this talk of emergency government et al an attempt on his part to bring in Sonia Gandhi through the back door as prime minister?
Bhandari is quick to defend himself against this insinuation. "I have merely put up a hypothetical situation should there be a need to impose emergency to meet the challenge from Pakistan. Recent developments, principally a statement by the G-8, and increasing national concern regarding the Kargil situation prompted me to write this letter and meet newsmen to express my own views on the subject," he retorts.
When asked whether there is any need to impose emergency in India, Bhandari replied that Pakistan cannot be trusted. "And if the war does escalate we would have a situation wherein we would have to postpone the elections. Then it would a new situation which would call for installation of an Emergency Government," he asserts.
He described the American endeavour to defuse tension between India and Pakistan as unprecedented. " If the American attempts can force the Pakistanis to pull back from Kargil in the next few weeks, it would be greatly welcome," the former diplomat explains.
However, he felt that the American attempt to bring pressure on Pakistan was not a masked attempt to force third party mediation in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. "The Americans are extending a helping hand on their own. It has nothing to do with the settlement of the Kashmir issue," Bhandari says.
He refused to believe that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief was initially unaware of this misadventure and came to know of it only later on and added, ''The situation is getting tough for him. If he does not toe the line of the military, there may be a coup against him. While the prime minister of Pakistan would be under international pressure to restore the status quo ante, the military is not. If he succumbs to the pressure then the military can take action against him and possibly depose him."
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