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When governors play politics: From Uttarakhand to Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh governor JP Rajkhowa is not the first--and hardly likely to be the last--of those holding high gubernatorial positions to find themselves in

india Updated: Jul 14, 2016 14:18 IST
Srinand Jha
Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa. (Official website of Arunachal Governor)
Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa. (Official website of Arunachal Governor)

Arunachal Pradesh governor JP Rajkhowa is not the first--and hardly likely to be the last--of those holding high gubernatorial positions to find themselves in the eye of the storm.

From Ram Naik in Uttar Pradesh and Tathagata Roy in Tripura to PB Acharya in Assam, governors appointed by the Narendra Modi government have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned a key decision by Rajkhowa that had led to the fall of the government in the border state and its decision doesn’t seem to be misplaced.

“Governors have limited powers, which should be used in a fair manner, so that democracy survives”, a five-judge SC bench headed by justice J S Kehar said.

In a critical note on the governor’s role in Arunachal Pradesh’s political crisis, the Supreme Court bench said the “governor had no business to call an assembly session on whims. Such action amounts to interfering with the legislative functions”.

Stay clear of manipulation: SC draws the line for speakers, governors

The top court’s observations seem to be leading to this question: Should the role of governors be downsized?

Governors--not entirely for misplaced reasons--have been accused of functioning as political tools of the government in power at the Centre.

Each change in government at the Centre has been followed by en-masse removal of individuals appointed to the post by the previous government.

After the Narendra Modi government assumed power in 2014, five governors were made to resign.

These included MK Narayanan of West Bengal, Ashwani Kumar of Nagaland, BL Joshi of Uttar Pradesh and Shekhar Dutta of Chhattisgarh. 85-year-old Gujarat governor Kamla Beniwal was first transferred to Mizoram and later sacked from the position, two months before she was to complete her term.

SC revives Cong govt in Arunachal, Nabam Tuki takes charge as CM

Chief ministers of opposition-ruled states have often cried foul over the alleged “misuse” of constitutional posts by governors to “serve the political interests” of the ruling dispensation at the Centre.

Following Ram Nath Kovind’s appointment as the Bihar governor in the run up to the state assembly elections last year, chief minister Nitish Kumar complained that he was not consulted.

“I came to know about the appointment from the television news channels”, he had then said.

Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik’s run-ins with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav are numerous.

Naik has rejected the chief minister’s candidate for the post of the state lokayukta and has also been sitting over names forwarded by Akhilesh for nomination as members of the state legislative council.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s political battles with the lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung- one of the few survivors among the UPA-era appointees- have been kept the Capital’s rumour mills abuzz, while former cop Kiran Bedi’s selection as the Puducherry governor has raised eyebrows.

Several governors have made headlines on account of their controversial statements. Tripura governor Tathagata Roy described those attending 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Menon’s funeral as “potential terrorists” and also raised the bogey of “killing of 10,000 Hindus by the Pakistan army in 1971”.

Assam governor P B Acharya triggered controversy with his “Hindustan for Hindus” assertion.

The long list of disputes and contentious remarks prove that ostensibly, there is justification to the Supreme Court’s advice to governors to “stay out” of political developments.