After Arunachal Pradesh debacle, PM Modi must abolish post of governor

If the Narendra Modi government wants to show some contrition for using the governor's office to destabilise governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal, it has a simple option: Abolish the post.

Send the oldies who occupy Governor Houses back to their families to spend the rest of their retired lives without being a burden on the Indian exchequer. Put the sprawling properties they occupy to some productive use, throw open their gardens for morning walks, yoga and children to play.

The Supreme Court verdict on Arunachal Pradesh is the perfect opportunity to reconsider the rationale of appointing governors. For years the Centre had used the Governor House to meddle in the affairs of democratically-elected governments. Since the days of Indira Gandhi, many Governors have been accused of being the Centre's spies, musclemen and agents.

But, after the Arunachal Pradesh verdict, it is clear that the days of governors using their discretion to destabilise governments is over.

"The governor must remain aloof from any disagreement, discord, disharmony, discontent or dissension, within individual political parties," a five-judge Constitution bench said while restoring the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh.

 After Arunachal Pradesh debacle, PM Modi must abolish post of governor

File image of Narendra Modi. Getty Images

"The governor must keep clear of any political horse-trading, and even unsavoury political manipulations, irrespective of the degree of their ethical repulsiveness. Who should or should not be a leader of a political party, is a political question, to be dealt with and resolved privately by the political party itself. The governor cannot make such issues a matter of his concern," the court said.

So, how does the Centre now benefit from retaining governors who have been stripped off their powers to keep rival parties in check? Deprived of their ability to destabilise governments, they would be of little use to Delhi.

The governor's post is largely a ceremonial one. In public opinion, a governor is linked with Republic Day pageantry and government-dictated addresses to the Assembly when their sessions are reconvened. Sometimes, they ask the government to reconsider some bills. But their advice is not binding. None of this makes the governor indispensable.

The governor gets some importance also when new governments are to be formed or sworn in. Till a few years ago, in the event of a hung assembly, the powers vested in him left some scope for manipulation. But, now the procedure has been well laid out--single largest party or pre-poll alliance gets the first shot. So, the Governor has no discretionary powers. And, do we really need to spend so much just to have someone who can administer oath of office and secrecy to a CM and his team? Since the chief justice of a high court is also empowered to do that, why not let him perform this ceremonial duty?

If the dispensability of Governor's role is not a compelling factor, think of Narayan Dutt Tiwari, JP Rajkhowa and Ram Naresh, three retirees who brought disrepute and charges of impropriety to the office.

A few years ago, Tiwari was caught on camera in the company of young women, playing out his perverse fantasies in the Raj Bhavan. His shameful conduct had triggered calls for abolishing the post, but the UPA could not muster the courage for it.

But, Rajkhowa's conduct must.

The Arunachal Pradesh governor turned into the butt of jokes when he passed on fiction and fantasies as the rationale behind dismissing the Congress government. One of his arguments was that there could be unrest because of slaughter of ''cows" in the streets of Arunachal Pradesh, a crime he claimed to have witnessed.

It showed Rajkhowa's complete lack of knowledge of the customs of the state he was governing. In Arunachal Pradesh, it is customary for people to slaughter ''Mithunas", a bovine species Rajkhowa confused with gau mata and raised an alarm.

Then there is the strange case of Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav, a Congress appointee who has mysteriously hung on in the Modi government in spite of facing serious allegations in connection with the Vyapam recruitment probe.

In its recommendations to the government, the Sarkaria Commission had suggested sweeping reforms in the appointment of governors. It had suggested that only eminent persons who have stayed away from active politics for a long period be appointed in consultation with the chief minister of the state, Vice-President of India and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

But, no government bothered to implement the reforms. Every party in power at the Centre used it as a reward for loyalists, stooges or as a ruse for shielding them from legal proceedings — case in point, Sheila Dikshit, who was sent to Raj Bhavan soon after losing the 2013 Assembly polls amidst charges of corruption.

Had the recommendations been accepted, the governor's office may have retained some of its legitimacy and credibility.

Abolishing the post would now be the only remedy.

And deserved repentance.

Updated Date: Jul 14, 2016 09:08:31 IST