Forty years ago, July 16, 1979: Desai resigns
Morarji Desai’s 28- month-old government went out of office as the revolt mounted against him in the Janata Party. Desai handed over his resignation to the President at 6.30 pm. Sanjiva Reddy accepted the resignation and asked him to continue as a caretaker PM until a new government is formed. Significantly, Desai has not resigned from the leadership of the Janata Party in Parliament.
He has staked his claim to form another government on the ground that, even if depleted in strength, the Janata Party continues to be the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha. As such, he must be invited to form another government.
Raj Narain’s Claim
Raj Narain, who has brought about the fall of the Morarji Desai government, has staked his claim to forming an alternative ministry. As leader of the newly-formed Janata Party (Secular), Raj Narain sent to President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy a communication spelling out his claim. Meanwhile, leaders who had resigned from the Janata Party during the last week held detailed discussions among themselves on how to mobilise enough support to substantiate its claim. Contact has already been established with certain other Opposition group including Indira Congress and Congress to explore the possibility of either forming a coalition or seeking their support from outside.
A coalition government at the Centre has become inevitable. But a ticklish situation has arisen because Morarji Desai has resigned from prime ministership but not from the leadership of the Janata Parliamentary Party. This has not only dismayed most of the Janata MPs but has put the party in a quandary. Desai has staked his claim to form a new government. Constitutional experts — Fali S Nariman, former Solicitor-General is one of them — say that the President cannot invite Desai to form the government because he has resigned from the prime ministership.