Friday, January 27, 2023

Needless controversies

It is a sad reflection of how politics has come to overwhelm Raj Bhavans across the nations as incumbents owing allegiance to the ruling party at the Centre go on offensive against state governments run by opposition parties and on the other side, governors co-opt in protecting the state governments run by the same party as that at the Centre or coalition. Currently, there are two categories of governors in the states: those holding office in BJP-ruled states and the ones in non-BJP-governed states. In the first category are those who are completely in sync with the state governments, annoy the Opposition, but do not subvert any constitutional process or politically abuse the offices they hold. The second category has those who act virtually as the Centre’s handmaidens and not as constitutional authorities that their positions make them.Conflicts rage most prominently between the elected governments and governors in Tamil Nadu (DMK), Delhi (AAP), Kerala (LDF), Telengana (TRS) and Punjab (AAP).The conflict between BJP-appointed governors and state government run by opposition parties or coalitions has been dominating the media. Mention may be made of the bitter public spat between Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan and the LDF government under chief minister Pinari Vijayan; the The most bitter spat was between then West Bengal governor and current vice president of India Jagdeep Dhankar with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The other was between Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and then MVA coalition under then chief minister Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray of the Shiv Sena till he was dethroned by his own former confidant Eknath Shinde who later forged an alliance with the BJP.The office of the governor and its misuse for undercutting democratically elected governments has been a constant in Indian politics from even before independence as the office was first established under the Government of India Act, 1935. The Governor is a high constitutional authority. He needs to function within the four walls of the Constitution and be a friend, philosopher and guide to his government. As per ordinary understanding the governor is a mere figurehead who acts on the advice of the council of ministers and under whose name appointments to various positions are made. Most importantly, the governor is supposed to act on the advice of his council of ministers and therefore even in the event of not in agreement, the incumbent eventually has to abide by the advice of his council of ministers. However,if the governor disagrees with the council of ministers he can refer to the President. These disagreements are not unusual but when the governor and the government involve in public spat, it is the most damaging to the constitutional democracy. Though the governor is an agent of the Centre, he is a constitutional agent and not a branch officer of the party in power at the Centre. Parliament needs to discuss the issue so that there is healthy respect for constitutional democracy among both the governor and the state legislature.

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