Way Forward in Punjab


The situation in Punjab has now become untenable. Every few days, the government or the opposition doss what it can to foul the other’s plans with only one obvious effect: that the most important province in the country is non-functional; and it’s been that way for more than a quarter now. Every time, and after every court order, it seems that the province might finally find some stability and direction. But each time, it turns out that the principal political parties leverage the court’s rulings, which more often than not are pretty contentious themselves, to further undermine and subvert the system to either grab or reclaim power.
Surely, this cycle has reached its end. The supreme court is expected to put the final seal on who will be the Punjab chief minister on Monday. But, there’s more. Political differences have now reached the kind of fever pitch that they invariably spill out on the streets, and while PTI has every right to contest proceedings it considers unfair and unconstitutional, it’s also very clear that it will use its popularity to launch vicious street protests if it does not like what it sees. And it does not matter to it whether it is political opponents or central state institutions on the other side. This is increasingly becoming a civic problem as well, not just a political one.
It’s also going to be very important, whenever the dust settles, to evaluate just where such frequent visits to the superior judiciary have left the political system. Parliament is supreme in representative government precisely because it is considered to be responsible and empowered enough to solve legislative problems through the legislature. The judiciary, too, must have felt by now that putting the constitution under the microscope so often sometimes blurs the line between interpreting the constitution and rewriting crucial parts of it.
There is only one way forward in Punjab. The court must not only put an end to this circus on Monday but also ensure that everybody remains within their constitutional bounds from here on.