Governor of the state, an executive post, vested with unreasonable power dates back to the Mauryan period, and was later made as an overpowered agent of executive and legislation reporting to the colonial government. Article 153 of Indian Constitution recommends that there shall be a governor for each state and Article 154 implements it stating that, “the executive power of the state shall be vested in the governor and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with constitution of India”.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in the debate within constituent assembly on discretionary power(s) of the governor responded that, “The governor under the constitution has no functions which he can discharge by himself, no function at all. All the articles do not give him the power to over-rule the ministry on any particular matter. He has certain duties to perform of which important is to advice the ministry, to warn the ministry, to suggest the ministry an alternative and ask for reconsideration. Good and pure administration requires governor to perform such duties”.
The question that is in front of us today is, “Are they the agents of center’s governance or the representative for interventions?” Resolutions that are passed unanimously by the hundreds of ‘elected’ state legislature members are put on hold without any decision being taken and unbounded communicational regulations upon taking decision by a single ‘appointed’ member is against the sovereignty of the state and rights of the people of that particular state. The agent of the central government challenging the autonomy and unanimity of the state is nothing but colonial and imperialistic.
Governors and controversies date back to 1952 in independent India and it was with Madras where the then Governor invited C.Rajagopalachari, a non-elected and non-contesting leader of a party (INC) with highest number of seats (but not majority of more than half) to form the government in the state. The Conspiracy of Governors in dissolution of any state assembly where a party in opposition to the Central Government is about to gain power has its roots in dismissing E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s left Kerala Government(1959), evolving to revoke the President’s rule at 5.47 A.M and calling Devendra Fadnavis (BJP), the front with non-majority to form government in Maharashtra(2019). In all these years, nothing has changed except for the exponential rise in destruction of federalism by the Center through the Governor, reaching newer peaks by the day.
One among the Landmark Judgments in Governor’s State Assembly Dismissal controversies by the Supreme Court was in S.R.Bommai vs. the Union of India (1994) which put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of the state government under Article 356. The judgment says that the power of the President to dismiss a government is not absolute. “President should exercise the power only after his proclamation (Rule of President) is approved by both the houses of the Parliament. Till then the President can only suspend the provisions of constitution relating to legislative assembly. If the houses are not active, the proclamation lapses at the end of two months and the government that got suspended would get revived”, said the verdict. This judgement has had the desired effect and the numbers testify it. Sixty-three (63) President’s Rule recommendations were executed between 1971 and 1990 which was reduced to 27 between 1991 and 2010. To an extent the federal structure was restored by the judiciary, but the governments at Centre were into other political stunts aimed at collapsing the States rather than just dissolution of the assembly.
Excerpt from Sarkaria Commission states that, “The task of Governor is to see that a government is formed and not try to form a government”, but the latter is what is exhibited by the Governors even today. The Governors had called the second largest parties, BJP with 13/40 seats in Goa (2017) and BJP alliance with 21/60 seats in Manipur(2017) to form the government, though Post Poll alliances, MLAs horse trades and other gimmicks were comfortably done later. The logic of Governors calling second largest parties to form governments wasn’t practiced in Maharashtra because if it were done ShivSena would have been called as it was the second largest party. So, the Governor instead called the first largest party (without majority), BJP, to form government and with midnight procedurals underway to remove the President’s rule. All these events are connected to a point in 2014, when the MODI 1.0 Government’s cabinet made recommendations to the President. Out of 36 Governors (29 states and 7 UTs), 33 Governors were newly appointed by the NDA Government in 2014. We are asked to believe that the government changing all the Governors is an apolitical move. Appointing allies and well-wishers of the party in the constitutional posts for making unconstitutional shootouts is just another forum for wasting the public’s tax money and working against the interests of those tax payers.
On another note, the post of Governor is also a position kept aside for political punishments and forced retirements. The poorly performing leaders of the party who have to be sent to an exile from their public lives are often nominated for the posts of Governor. This in turn drives the psychological attitude of these Governors to restore the faith of the party by intervening into the harmony of the states governed by the opposition. Recent examples from the past decade include Sheila Dikshit, the longest serving Chief Minister of Delhi being appointed as Governor of Kerala after her 2013 election defeat and Dr.Tamilisai Soundarajan, former TN BJP State President being appointed as Governor of Telangana after back-to-back defeat in state and union elections. This move of ending active political career of erstwhile leaders in turn kicks their survival instinct whereby they intend to survive at least by acting on the passive role of executing the off-the-record recommendations of central government. Moreover, as the tenure of the Governor is as long as the President (Prime Minister) holds pleasure of him/her being in the office, so the Governors are left with no option but to invariantly stick to the unconstitutional red-tape messages. Lieutenant Governors of UTs with Constituent Assemblies have more frictions and clashes with the elected government as the regulations and division of power lines are nebulous and puzzling. Further, the added powers and responsibilities of Governors over conservation of tribal areas are in vain. It’s another multi-disciplinary debate that has to be addressed separately with the absolute representation of all the tribes, provided all the perspectives and voices are given the chance to speak.
We are in the eleventh hour to raise the collective voice on the scrapping of Governor’s post as it has been a complete remotely accessible political stunt package for the Centre. Actions of anti-state autonomy, Anti-state unanimity and standing against the values, emotions and sentiments of the state wherever non-Central parties are governing need not be paid by the taxpayers of the that state anymore. Arbitrary usage, overpowering of the discretionary powers provided by the constitution must not be entertained. Further the huge hike in the number of executives and judiciaries being appointed as Governors, as part of their post-retirement plan is a threat to demolish the existing ‘ethics’ system of the people’s servants.
Whichever party leads the government at the Centre, the unconstitutional intrusion in the social stability and harmony of the States governed by the opposition, through the Office of Governor is comprehensive and ubiquitous. Further Governors, being the Chancellors of the State Universities mostly hold on to it only to stand on the dais during convocation programs of the universities. The silence of the TamilNadu Governor with IoE issue between Vice-chancellor appointed by him and the Government of Tamilnadu raises the inevitable question of why someone like a Governor even needs to be at the apex post when they can’t even resolve anything at all! The Progress card of a Governor’s office includes the improvement Human Development Index values and parameters of the tribal regions. Unfortunately, these indicators are very poor that no government even wants to share these indicators. It is time for us to open up for rationalistic discussion, to agree and disagree, to dispute and debate, to refine and to reach a consensus for saving the sovereignty and integrity of this land and constitutional values of the nation.