Gujarat’s hyperactive Governor Kamla Beniwal wants to know how much was spent on Narendra Modi‘s three-day Sadbhavna fast. She obviously lends an attentive ear to Modi’s political enemies who allege an expenditure of Rs 50 crore or more – though nothing in the fast looked particularly ostentatious, at least in comparison to functions normally organised by well-to-do Gujjus in the state.
Beniwal also got Modi’s goat last month when she decided to appoint her own Lokayukta in the state when Modi declined to give her his concurrence. She is, quite clearly, a political governor who likes to dance to the Congress party’s political tunes. And in the Congress party’s little black book, Modi is Enemy No 1.
If there is one party that has systematically destroyed – though others have also played a small part – the institution of the non-partisan governor, it is the Congress. A few instances will show why.
No governor in a Congress-ruled state so much as raises a whisper when things go wrong. The recent Bharatpur communal killings in Rajasthan did not raise (stop-gap) Governor Shivraj Patil’s eyebrows. But then, when it comes to Patil, nothing ever is serious enough to warrant a response. Not terror, not 26/11.
Patil was the country’s most incompetent home minister. Which is why he was dispatched from the home ministry to Punjab as governor after 26/11, with additional charge of Rajasthan when the previous incumbent died. Patil is living a peaceful life in Jaipur’s Raj Bhavan, never mind the gunshots from Bharatpur. He does not have to work as hard as Beniwal to harass the state government.
But if you are an HR Bhardwaj in an Opposition-ruled state like Karnataka, you have your work cut out. You can’t lose any opportunity to needle the government in power, be it a Yeddyurappa or a Sadananda Gowda. Only if a Congress government comes to power – as it well might the next time – can Bhardwaj consider his gubernatorial posting a sinecure given him for past favours done for the dynasty – including defreezing the Bofors-related accounts of Sonia Gandhi‘s friends like Ottavio Quattrochi.
YS Rajashekhara Reddy may run a scandalous regime in Andhra Pradesh and loot the exchequer by being in league with B Ramalinga Raju, but no Congress-appointed governor raises concerns. Suicides may dot the countryside of Telangana and Rayalaseema, but the Andhra governor loses no sleep over it.
A governor’s job in states ruled by the Congress or its allies is a paid vacation for political cronies from the past. M Karunanidhi and his family may have converted Tamil Nadu into their personal fief – running their own TV stations or a cable monopoly — and son Azhagiri may be overseeing a mafia-style operation around Madurai, but the governor knows it is not his job to poke his nose into these things. Friend Karunanidhi will take care of family quarrels and law and order.
Ditto for Maharashtra, the land of land scams. The governor never asks the state authorities about the Adarsh scam, or about Sharad Pawar’s association with the Lavasa development or the loot of Anglican church properties by all and sundry.
A Lt Governor in Delhi is never called to account for what goes on in Delhi or a Sheila Dikshit for her lack of proper supervision of Commonwealth spending, about which the Shunglu committee had lots to say.
But, god forbid, if a Nitish Kumar wants to stake claim to form a government in Bihar on the basis of alleged defections. All the moral outrage at a Congress-appointed governor’s command is summoned when a Kumar tries to cobble together a coalition in Bihar after a hung verdict in the 2005 Bihar assembly election.
Governor Buta Singh – never the ultimate authority on probity — develops concerns about the possibility of horse-trading and dissolves a new assembly even before it can meet to elect its new leader. The governor duly lost his case in court, but he managed to do the damage. Courts give a rap on the knuckles years after governors do their damage.
But it’s not just about states. The president of India plays much the same role as governors in states. But did you ever hear of Pratibha Patil expressing concerns about Andimuthu Raja’s capers or the nuclear bill or horse-trading in the run-up to the 2008 trust vote? This horse-trading was later brought to light by the cash-for-votes scam. But not one yip out of Pratibha tai. Not even about the shoddy job done by the Delhi police in the scam.
More and more cases can be cited to prove the point, but it is clear that Congress-appointed governors are sent to states ruled by the Opposition to use any possible opportunity to harass and unsettle them.
It is time to put a stop to this nonsense and make changes in the law. Governors cannot be partisans.
First, no state governor should be appointed without the express approval of the elected state government. Elected governments have the right to have relationship of trust with their governors. The latter are not supposed to be adversaries just as the president of India is not supposed to put spokes in the Union government’s wheels.
Second, governors and the president should not use their powers to delay legislation enacted by state assemblies. They can ask for reviews, but once the assembly passes a law the second time, it must be accepted as the will of the people and given effect to.
Third, the selection of governors should not come from a small pool of out-of-work politicians recently associated with the ruling party. A Shivraj Patil moving from the home ministry to governorship of Punjab — an Opposition-ruled state — is simply not on.
It is time we created a simple system for selecting non-partisan governors for all states.