Last week the Anil Kapoor starrer ‘Nayak- The Real Hero’ completed twenty years of its theatrical release. The movie is considered a classic across generations. It shows the story of a news reporter named Shivaji Rao (played by Anil Kapoor) who gets the opportunity to interview the Chief Minister of Maharashtra (‘CM’) named Balraj Chauhan (played by the Late Amrish Puri).
During the interview, Shivaji grills the CM on the shortcomings of his government and to save face, the CM offers him the chance of taking his place for a day. The CM says, ‘सिर्फ एक दिन मुख्य मंत्री बनके देखो, आटे दाल का भाव पता चल जायेगा … एक दिन मेरी कुर्सी पे बैठके देखो के कितनी अंगारों पे बैठता हूँ मैं, कितने काटों का ताज है मेरे सर पर… तब बताना कितने लोग educate हुए और कितने लोगो की गरीबी कम हुई । तब मैं तुमसे सवाल पूछूंगा इसी program में।
(Translated to ‘Just for a day serve as the Chief Minister and you will understand the reality… Serve as the Chief Minister of the state for a day and you will understand the difficulties I face running the state and the problems I have to deal with. Thereafter, you can let me know how many people got educated and how many came out of poverty… Then I will ask you these questions on this very interview‘.)
Shivaji takes up the offer and ends up doing a marvellous job as the Chief Minister and eventually public support convinces him to join politics and he becomes the Chief Minister. This movie teaches the viewers many important lessons, namely how the media should question our politicians, how a Chief Minister and a government should function, how the public should elect its representatives etc. It also teaches us the law on appointment of a Chief Minister and whether a citizen can serve as a CM for a day. I shall discuss the above in this post.
Law on Appointment of a Chief Minister in India-
As per Article 164 of the Constitution of India, the Chief Minister of a state is appointed by the Governor. However, in reality the leader of the political party commanding the support of the majority of elected legislators is called on to form the government. S/he then swears in as the Chief Minister and advises the Governor to appoint the Cabinet Ministers.
As per the text of the Constitution, a Chief Minister stays in office as per the pleasure of the Governor. In practice, s/he continues to occupy the position so long as s/he has the support and confidence of majority of elected representatives. In India’s political history there have been numerous instances wherein a CM had to resign because s/he ceased to enjoy this support, or s/he had to resign because the political party in power decided to replace her/him with someone else. This recently happened in Gujarat where Shri Bhupendra Patel replaced Shri Vijay Rupani as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Coming back to the movie Nayak, where Shivaji Rao is sworn in as the CM for a day despite not being an elected legislator/representative in the state assembly. This scene can educate us on two propositions of law i.e., (a) whether an unelected individual can be sworn in as the CM? and (b) whether an individual can become the CM for a day? I’ll answer them one after the other.
First, as per Article 164(4), a cabinet minister ceases to be a Minister if s/he is not elected to the State Legislature within six months. Therefore, an unelected individual can serve as a Minister for a period of six months and if s/he has the support of the majority of elected representatives also as the CM (Har Sharan Verma v. Shri Tribhuvan Narain Singh, Chief Minister, U.P. and another, 1971(1) SCC 616). A recent example is the Chief Minister of West Bengal Ms. Mamta Bannerjee who is serving as the CM without being elected to the state legislature.
Dr. Ambedkar (arguably the chief architect of the Constitution) had justified this provision in the Constituent Assembly by arguing that often competent people are defeated in a constituency and there is no reason why they should not be permitted to be appointed to the Cabinet, provided they get elected again. He had observed,
‘It is perfectly possible to imagine that a person who is otherwise competent to hold the post of a Minister has been defeated in a constituency for some reason which, although it may be perfectly good, might have annoyed the constituency and he might have incurred the displeasure of that particular constituency. It is not a reason why a member so competent as that should not be permitted to be appointed a member of the Cabinet on assumption that he shall be able to get himself elected either from the same constituency or from another constituency. After all the privilege that is permitted is a privilege that extends only for six months. It does not confer a right to that individual to sit in the House without being elected at all.’
The provision was first used in the year 1957, when Dr. K.N. Katju was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh despite not being elected to the Assembly. He was serving as the Defence Minister in the Union Government and had resigned to be sworn in as the state’s CM.
Second, since an unelected individual can serve as a CM for 6 months, s/he can serve as the CM even for a day. The procedure arguably would involve the resignation of the existing CM and a letter of confidence from the elected legislators showing their support and confidence in the candidate. This was exactly the procedure followed in the movie.
While the movie is fiction, there have been similar incidents in the past. For instance, in the year 1998 Shri Jagdambika Pal had served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for a day. At the time, Shri Kalyan Singh was the CM candidate for the Bhartiya Janta Party and he had appointed a Cabinet of 93 ministers, consisting of representatives from other political parties as well. The Governor Romesh Bhandari refused to recognise the outsiders in the Cabinet and the government was dissolved. In these circumstances, Pal served as the CM for a day.
Interestingly, earlier this year the state of Uttarakhand witnessed a Nayak of its own. In January, a 20 year old named Shrishti Goswami was given the opportunity to serve as the state’s CM for a day by CM Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat. Goswami was given this symbolic opportunity to mark the occasion of girl child day on 24 January. While this opportunity was symbolic, it almost brought the movie to life.