September 4, 2007Foreign AffairsPublic Policy

No representation without election

The UPA-Left joint-mechanism” on the nuclear deal is not merely an affront to the constitution. It is a risk to national security.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The UPA government has struck a political compromise on the India-US nuclear agreement by inflicting yet another joint mechanism” on the nation. This time the joint mechanism” consists of a committee comprising of representatives from the Congress Party and the Communist Parties and will consider various aspects of the deal.

It’s easy to see this as a clever way to defuse a political crisis that had engulfed the UPA government. It may also be possible to ignore the precedent it sets—undermining the constitutional authority of the Cabinet (and collective responsibility) on such matters. If the Congress Party president wields greater power than the prime minister, why not allow this joint mechanism” to wield more power than the cabinet committee on security?

But its proposed composition is an immediate cause for worry. The Communists have already said that its representatives will be Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, A B Bardhan, D Raja, Abani Roy and Debabrata Biswas—members of the Politburo and suchlike. But as The Rational Fool pointed out in an email, two of these gentlemen are not even members of parliament.

Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan may be office-bearers of two different flavours of the Communist Party, but elected representatives they are not. They’ve not taken any oath of secrecy.

There appears to be a case for public interest litigation here: on two counts. First, the UPA government may not be within constitutional bounds to set up such a committee in the first place. Second, even if it does, the nomination of unelected, nay defeated politicians, to a committee that looks at vital national security issues—which consists of cabinet members—is highly dubious. The joint mechanism” ought to be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Update: The committee has been announced. It has 15 members. Comrade Karat is among them.

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