What does a good state governor do? Tamil Nadu, unfortunately, doesn't even have a full-time governor, the state shares one with Maharashtra. Raj Bhavan, Chennai is presently vacant as Governor Vidyasagar Rao is in Mumbai attending to affairs concerning Maharashtra while seeking appropriate legal advice on Tamil Nadu. This, unfortunately, does not inspire confidence especially at a time, where the aspersions about the governor's independence are ripe.
He is being seen as an agent of the Central government which he ideally should be on other issues. But at this point in time, the governor exercises a constitutional function and one that needs to be exercised quite quickly so as to not leave the state in limbo. He should either accept Tamil Nadu Chief Minister OPS Panneerselvam's resignation or ask him to carry on in a caretaker capacity till the disproportionate assets verdict involving Sasikala Natarajan is out. The governor can at this point decide if he should call for a fresh election or appoint Sasikala as the next chief minister or if he needs to allow Paneerselvam an opportunity to withdraw his resignation allowing him a chance to prove his majority on the floor of the House.
Tamil Nadu is faced with a curious situation, where the previous chief minister has resigned from office, the legislative party having a majority has a new candidate, yet the governor is hesitant to invite her to form the government. The reason being that she may be facing a conviction shortly in disproportionate assets case, making her ineligible to hold office as a member of the legislature, and consequently as chief minister.
The previous chief minister now has led a party revolt after his resignation, stating he was forced to resign under duress. The governor has not accepted his resignation, and Panneerselvam continues to be the chief minister of Tamil Nadu while Sasikala claims to have the support of the legislative party.
The key now will be the Assembly, where the Speaker of the House reigns supreme. The Assembly is now in session and the Speaker can convene a session of the Assembly, where the AIDMK (led by Sasikala) can move a no-confidence motion against the present government if they feel they have the adequate numbers. If this motion succeeds, the governor will have no choice but to accept Panneerselvam's resignation and dismiss his government. The consequence though could be fresh elections and not the automatic appointment of Sasikala. This clearly looks at where Tamil Nadu is heading for.
India follows a Westminster system of cabinet government both at the centre and at the state. This has been taught to mean, that Parliament/state Assemblies reign supreme and that the president/governor only exercise nominal power except when it comes to resolving constitutional crises like the one Tamil Nadu is currently facing. In situations like these, the governor has a wide variety of options to ensure the smooth functioning of a government.
So then it becomes incumbent for the governor to exercise those options. The governors of the states in India are appointed by the president and serve at pleasure. In effect, these are Central government appointees. But in these situations, they are required to exercise a level of individual and impartial judgment and not follow instructions from Delhi. The governor is required to invite the leader of the party who should impress upon the constitutional figurehead of the state that the government would function to the satisfaction of the governor. To put this simply, pass a floor test in the House and then hold office for the term of the legislature. In most cases it is pretty straight forward, post an election, you have a leader of a party or an alliance that can pass a floor test, then that person is invited to form a government.
However, despite the turmoil that Tamil Nadu is going through, the governor is busy in Raj Bhavan, Mumbai instead of Raj Bhavan, Chennai. While this is happening, it appears that only one party can gain from a split in the AIADMK right now.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Feb 08, 2017 16:47:36 IST