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Fare the Well, Dear Mr. Governor
Amidst recurring controversies regarding Governors serving The Political Interests of The Centre, A debate to either Abolish or Relook The Constitutional position of The Governor is The need of The Hour.
Issue Date - 17/02/2011
The position of the Governor which was conceptualised by the founding fathers of India’s constitution to provide for an independent and impartial post which would rise above partisan interests and raise his conscientious voice in the event of a crisis or conflict in a state, has unfortunately disappointed us on more occasions than one. Recurring controversies of Governors being seen working in a partial manner and even dubbed as “political agents” has dampened the integrity of the post and calls for an urgent need for reforms of the highest order to protect the larger national interest of fair governance. The question here is whether it is time for India to totally abolish the post of Governor or not.

While one might believe that the current turmoil in Karnataka has led us to prompt this debate, one look in the recent past reveals cases where Governors of states in both the UPA and NDA regimes have not only acted partially; they have also tried to overrule the electoral mandate. Apart from the recent furore created by the BJP in the case of H R Bharadwaj and E S L Narasimhan, serving governors of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, former governors of Bihar and Jharkhand Buta Singh and Syed Sibte Razi also came under immense scrutiny after having invited a party in minority to form a government, thereby obstructing the NDA to come to power. During the NDA regime too, there was the case of Arunachal Pradesh where the Governor played a very dubious role in the formulation of the government after Gegong Apang switched sides.

According to senior political expert Subrot Kamal Dutta, “The past 20 years have seen people with political background being nominated to the Governor’s post, which has definitely declined its dignity. Even the Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Centre over the conduct of the Bihar and Jharkhand governors in the past. The post of the Governor has to be apolitical, and only people with relevant judicial and constitutional experience should be nominated. Impetus has to be on each individual to keep the post as apolitical as possible.” Taking a fair view on the ongoing turmoil in Karnataka, one could contest that Governor Bharadwaj was only carrying out his duties by acting to ensure that an individual under scanner for alleged acts of corruption to the tune of Rs.5 billion does not stay at the helm of affairs. After all, the constitution legally provides for the Governor to act against corruption, which is what Bharadwaj did. Even if we were to believe that his actions were not influenced by the Congress, his stand invited the ire of the BJP who blamed Bharadwaj of acting hastily only to divert the nation’s attention from reports of the CWG and 2G scams that the UPA was reeling under. Either way, the Governor’s actions, even if justified, stand to lose credibility on account of political gimmicks, the kinds unlikely to end anytime soon.

However, before we put to question the existence of the post of governor, let us take a look at the role defined for the said post. India’s constitution underlines the role of a governor as an agency set up to maintain the basic balance of the people of the state & act as a watchdog to oversee whether the elected government of the state duly complies with & respects the legalities and mandates of the constitution or not. According to Article 155, the President appoints a governor and he holds office during the pleasure of the President as per the provisions of Article 156 of the Indian constitution. Under normal circumstances, the role of a governor only gains prominence during the President’s rule in the absence of a state government. Also, one gets to see the governor only at his opening address where he sets the course of government and its policies for the rest of the year & presents it before the state legislature.

Talking to B&E in this context, Manish Tiwari, official spokesperson of the All India Congress Committee, says that any institution is as good or bad as its people make it.” The post of governor provides for a vital balance within the constitution and also provides for a powerful Centre. If, in his duties, the Governor finds anomalies he will act on it and there is nothing wrong with it.,” he said referring to the Karnataka crisis. “On the larger front, there have been individual cases where the governor might have overstepped, but it is not right to generalise and question the integrity of the post”, he added when asked for his views on abolishing the Governor’s post.

While it is true that individual cases have maligned the integrity of the Governor’s post, it is vital to note that it is not in the practical interest of any national level political party to call for abolishing the Governor’s post as it provides for a convenient option to appease/oblige senior leaders who are either prominent but not included in the cabinet, or have been known for certain nuisance value.

BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain feels that it is high time to call for a national debate on the issue. “The post of the Governor, even if not abolished, needs a relook. Where is the sanctity left in the post if political agents are placed there for a specific purpose of upsetting ruling state governments?” he asks. Another senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy does not strike a different note either. “Individuals have gone beyond their constitutional realm but it is not correct to generalise, tomorrow you might come and call for abolishing the post of President” he says. “The BJP does not oppose the functioning of a Governor until the individual crosses the limits set by the constitution. There have been instances but they have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

When it comes to the highest form of governance in any state, political affiliations have to be nipped in the bud. With the increasing number of Governors acting on evident political influences, it is time to look beyond the current debate over the selection process or the jurisdiction of a Governor and seek a replacement of the entire concept itself. It could be in the form of a Chief Justice heading matters of the state in an impartial manner or even a panel of imminent individuals from the social and judicial realms who have a proven record of not being politically linked. Whatever the case be, there is an ardent need for greater involvement of the state governments when it comes to progressive governance. Radical changes are required if we are looking at India as a nation which could probably be proud of being a stable State in the true sense of our constitution.

Parimal Peeyush           

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