The Centre appointed VP Singh Badnore, a former Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, as the new governor of Punjab on Wednesday, but put on hold its move to send BJP leader and retired bureaucrat KJ Alphons to Chandigarh as the UT’s administrator, which would have been the first instance in 32 years of the UT getting an administrator different from the Punjab governor.
Badnore, 68, will take over the reins from Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki who was holding additional charge of Punjab for the past 18 months and is also the UT administrator thus. A four-time former MLA, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bhilwara in 2004 and 2009.
While the Punjab governor traditionally has the additional charge of administrator of UT of Chandigarh, his appointment made no mention of it. The Centre had sounded Alphons about the decision to appointment him as Chandigarh administrator instead. However, the move was put off after chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who heads the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government in Punjab, lodged his strong protest with Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
Alphons confirmed the development, saying the Punjab government had raised certain “technical” issues. Badal raised objections after the news of likely appointment of a separate administrator for Chandigarh triggered a political storm in the state where the assembly elections are just five months away.
Chandigarh has been at the centre of long-standing inter-state disputes between Punjab and Haryana. And, the appointment of 63-year-old Alphons, a former IAS officer of the 1979 batch from Kerala, would not only have ended a 32-year practice of the Punjab governor holding additional charge of the UT, but also been a huge setback for the Akalis.
The Badals, who are always strident on inter-state issues, would have also been left red-faced, as the SAD is a partner in the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. On a day of fast-paced events, there were angry reactions from the Punjab leaders as soon as Alphons, best known for his demolition drive against illegal encroachments in Delhi, broke the news of his appointment. “I received a call from home minister Rajnath Singh last evening, informing me of the development. I am in Kerala, but will leave for New Delhi soon. The orders are expected to reach me in the evening,” he told Hindustan Times over the phone on Wednesday afternoon.
The opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were quick to denounce the move, calling it a bid to dilute Punjab’s claim on Chandigarh. The chief minister’s office (CMO) first issued a statement asking the centre “not to disturb the time-tested convention and practice of keeping the Governor of Punjab as the Administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh”.
The statement was quickly withdrawn after it became clear that no formal orders had been issued yet. In the revised statement, Badal slammed Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, accusing him of shedding crocodile tears over the issue. However, there was no official word from the ministry of home affairs. The appointment, according to ministry sources, is likely to take place after the Punjab governor takes charge.
Meanwhile, in other appointments, former Union minister Najma Heptulla will be the governor of Manipur, while BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi will be the new lieutenant governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Banwarilal Purohit will be the governor of Assam.