Account for the legal and political factors responsible for the reduced frequency of using Article 356 by the Union Governments since mid-1990s. (250 words)

Introduction: Article 356, commonly known as President’s Rule, is a provision in the Indian Constitution that allows the Central government to take direct control of a state’s administration under specific conditions. Historically, this provision has been a subject of controversy, with claims of its misuse for political advantage. However, since the mid-1990s, there has been a noticeable decline in its application, attributed to various legal and political developments.

Legal Factors Responsible for Reduced Frequency

  • Judicial Oversight: The landmark S.R. Bommai case in 1994 saw the Supreme Court lay down stringent guidelines for the imposition of Article 356. The Court emphasized that the provision is subject to judicial review, ensuring that any misuse can be legally challenged.
  • Constitutional Safeguards: The 44th Amendment, introduced in 1978, placed restrictions on extending President’s Rule beyond a year unless specific conditions were met.
  • Commission Recommendations: Both the Sarkaria and Punchhi Commissions, which examined Centre-State relations, provided guidelines to prevent arbitrary imposition of Article 356. They emphasized its use only as a last resort.

Political Factors Responsible for Reduced Frequency

  • Emergence of Regional Powers: The rise of regional parties in national politics has led to coalition governments at the Centre. These coalitions, often comprising regional parties, have acted as a check against arbitrary imposition of Article 356.
  • Coalition Dynamics: Since the mid-1990s, coalition governments have seen regional parties exert significant influence. Instances like regional allies preventing the imposition of President’s Rule in states showcase the changed political dynamics.
  • Presidential Interventions: Presidents, such as K.R. Narayanan, have played a proactive role by returning recommendations for President’s Rule, compelling the Central government to rethink its decisions.

Conclusion: The decline in the use of Article 356 since the mid-1990s reflects India’s evolving democratic ethos. While legal interventions have provided necessary checks and balances, the changing political landscape, characterized by the rise of regional parties and the dynamics of coalition politics, has been pivotal in ensuring the judicious use of this provision.

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