Call it part 2 of the NDA-UPA war, or at the very least a bloody epilogue. Many heads rolled today in the mass exodus of UPA-II appointed governors. At least three - Uttar Pradesh Governor BL Joshi, Karnataka Governor HR Bhardwaj and Assam Governor JB Patnaik - have resigned from their posts today, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying "If I were in their position, I would have quit a long time ago."
The move comes in the midst of a growing perception that the Modi-led government is on an overdrive to wipe-out all traces of a Congress presence in the states. That said, the move to dismiss Governors, however is hardly unprecedented.
The first decision to replace Governors took place under the regime of the Janta government in 1977, when it replaced appointees made by the previous Congress government.
In October 1980, the dismissal of then Tamil Nadu Governor Prabhudas Patwari established the principle that governors serve at the President's "pleasure" under Article 156 (1), which in turn can be used by the Prime Minister to dismiss any Governor for political reasons, and without assigning any cause.
In more recent years, such mass resignations have become norm, starting with when the UPA government replaced the NDA government in 2004. The incoming UPA also replaced Governors in various states before their term expired, including Babu Parmanand (Haryana), Vishnu Kant Shastri (Uttar Pradesh), Kidar Nath Sahani (Goa) and Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat).
The UPA policy was also heavy-handed with transfers, and in 2010, the Supreme Court slammed the government saying it cannot arbitrarily transfer appointed Governors without 'compelling' reasons. During the arguments, the then UPA government had contended that the conflict of Governor's view with the national policy could invite his/her removal from the office by cutting short the five-year tenure. The UPA had also said that Governors act as a bridge between the Centre and the state governments and as such they cannot disagree on their own with the views of the government.
Given the UPA precedent, the Modi sarkar's actions are hardly without and precedent, and it would be a stretch to describe them as "politically unethical and constitutionally incorrect," as CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury declared.
But there is little doubt about the underlying political acrimony. Sheila Dikshit, for instance, was made Kerala Governor after her party's humiliating loss in the Delhi Assembly elections, partly as a recognition of her long-standing closeness to Sonia Gandhi. She has refused to quit, and the government for its part will ensure that she will be transferred to a small and less significant state.
There is no word on Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva's fate, as yet. Alva met Prime Minister Modi this afternoon, and is likely to meet President Pranab Mukherjee as well. Alva was Joint Secretary of the Congress party, and was elected as MP to Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha.
But it's not just UPA governors who are getting the axe. Prime Minister Modi appears to be determined to make clean sweep at all levels. Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth identified six UPA-era bureaucrats who have retained key positions within the government -- and the PMO has since put on hold their appointments. The list includes the Private Secretary of Rajnath Singh who earlier served under External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Updated Date: Jun 17, 2014 18:26:01 IST