Recent Rise in Conflict Between Governor-Non-BJP Govts Worrying for Democracy
From the country's capital to South India's Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana through West Bengal to Punjab and Jharkhand, wherever theren is an opposition party, i.e., a non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, there is a tussle between the elected government and the respective Governors. In some cases, the Governor appears more powerful than the elected government. However, this is not a new thing. In the past, too, there have been differences or disputes between state governments and the Governor, but the extent to which this has progressed in the present times is very worrying. Former judges of the country have also called this trend “dangerous for democracy” and the Constitution. On the other side, the Left parties have demanded that the post of Governor be abolished, terming it “irrelevant.”
The conflict between governors and the elected government has increased significantly in non-BJP-ruled states. Let’s take a look at some of these states.
Delhi: AAP-LG Tussle Goes on
Delhi is currently ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party-led by Arvind Kejriwal, who became Chief Minister for some time in 2013, but since 2015, the public has continuously been electing him as Chief Minister. Many lieutenant governors (LG) have changed during this time, but their dispute with the government continues. Rather, the tussle is growing, so much so that courts have also intervened several times, but a solution has yet to be found.
Kejriwal alleges that the LG is obstructing the acceptance of important schemes of his government, while the LG says that the government is not working in the public's interest. He has also accused the government of wasteful expenditure and has also written many letters regarding this. Not only this, at present, the LG has also sent a recovery notice to the Chief Minister, in which he termed the money spent in the campaign of the Delhi government as the propaganda of a party and has now demanded recovery. Now the question arises. Can any LG make a recovery from an elected Chief Minister? The matter does not stop there. The LG has constituted inquiry committees for several schemes of the Delhi government.
Recently, Municipal Corporation elections were held in which AAP got the majority, but this too was not untouched by the controversy between LG and the Kejriwal government. This is why, till date, Delhi has not got its mayor. The LG nominated 10 alleged BJP workers as corporators in the Municipal Corporation without asking the elected government. The LG has been putting seals only on their suggested names, but this time it is alleged that the this list has come from the BJP office.
Similarly, when the issue of choosing the presiding officer came up, the Delhi government named Mukesh Goyal, the senior-most corporator, which the LG rejected, and BJP corporator Satya Sharma was appointed. After this, there was an uproar on the swearing-in day, i.e. January 6.
Apart from this, the latest issue of conflict is regarding the training of teachers working in Delhi government schools abroad. The Kejriwal government says it wants to send its teachers to Finland for improve their skills, but the LG has put a spanner in this too. Against this, AAP had also organised a protest march from the Assembly to the LG's house.
Tamil Nadu: DMK Demands Governor’s Recall
Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) and the Governor have been at loggerheads. Recently, this reached a limit when the Governor remarked that the state should be addressed as 'Tamizhgam' instead of Tamil Nadu, which has created a huge public furore not only with the ruling DMK but also with its allies. After this, during the protests in the state, the effigy of the Governor wasb burnt. However, while clarifying this, the Governor said he was speaking in the context of history.
Earlier, the Governor broke decorum by omitting passages in his address to the Assembly praising several DMK stalwarts, including CN Annadurai and M Karunanidhi, as well as Dravidian ideologue Periyar and the architect of the Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar. The precedent is that the Governor always reads out the prepared speech of the government. After this, the people of the ruling party also raised slogans like "Governor, Go Out".
A day after the incident, on January 13, a delegation of DMK MPs met President Droupadi Murmu and presented a petition stating that the Governor was violating the Constitution.
This is not a new issue. Since the new government came to power in the state and RN Ravi took over as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, he has had regular clashes with the state government. Earlier, too, the state government had approached Rashtrapati Bhavan demanding the sacking of Ravi, alleging that he had "incited communal hatred". Along with this, the CM also submitted a list of pending Bills to the Governor and questioned the delay in approval. These Bills also include one with a provision to exempt the state from the purview of NEET medical examination.
The DMK and its allies say the Governor is trying to impose the dictats of the Central government on the Tamil Nadu government, which is unnecessary in a federal system of governance.
Kerala: ‘Interference’ Vs Governance
Kerala has been at loggerheads with the elected CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. Some time back, a constitutional crisis erupted in the state after Governor Khan directed the vice-chancellors of nine universities to resign. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Governor has no such authority. He accused Khan of working against the Constitution and democracy.
This was not the first time the Governor interfered in the working of the government. The Governor continues to make political statements against the elected government of Kerala and its ministers.
The Kerala Chief Minister had said at the time of the Vice-Chancellor controversy, "Such interference in the field of higher education is a violation of natural justice. This step of the Chancellor without listening to the Vice-Chancellors is unilateral."
He said the Governor, as the Chancellor, cannot seek the resignation of the Vice Chancellors of other universities based on the Supreme Court judgment as the order, in that case, does not apply to all Vice Chancellors. He said there is no such provision in the university law which empowers any chancellor to dismiss the vice-chancellor, adding that procedures should be followed while removing a vice-chancellor.
Earlier, too, the Chief Minister protested against the Governor for not signing the Bills passed by the Assembly. He said: "11 ordinances have lapsed because the Governor did not give his assent. Many Bills passed by the government were also not signed by the Governor."
Vijayan also hit out at Khan for his frequent remarks against state ministers, saying protests would arise in a democratic society if he were not working as per constitutional provisions.
Apart from this, on many occasions, the Governor is seen as an opponent of the elected government. The Governor has even held press conferences against the elected government. There was a controversy when he spoke to journalists of his choice and threw people from local media channels out of Raj Bhavan. Media organisations also expressed their objection and protested about this.
Telangana: What’s the Issue
Like other states, Telangana has also not remained untouched by the Governor's controversy. The ruling party, TRS, alleged that the Raj Bhavan could be behind the efforts to poach MLAs in the state. Such controversies around a constitutional post like the governorship in any state are extremely unfortunate. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had suspected her phone was being tapped in Telangana.
Recall that the Governor of Telangana is from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, and she has earlier led the BJP there. TRS leaders say she is still acting like a BJP leader. Tamilisai took charge as Governor of Telangana on September 8, 2019. She is the first woman to hold the post in the state that was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
Deadlocks in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra
The dispute between the then Governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is not hidden from anyone. Both used to make political allegations against each other openly. Dhankar (no the country’s vice-president) was known less in the role of ‘His Excellency’ and more as Banerjee’s rival.
Similarly, in Jharkhand, a tussle was seen between the Governor and Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Recently, Governor Ramesh Bais returned the related file to the state government after taking legal advice regarding the rules related to the formation of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) in Jharkhand. Along with this, calling the present rules unconstitutional, instructions have been given to change them. He has said that in the formation of TAC, at least two members should be nominated compulsorily according to their level.
At the same time, the state government has constituted a new rule regarding the formation of TAC. In the new rules, now the Governor has no authority in the formation of TAC and the appointment of members. The members are appointed only with the approval of the Chief Minister. The state government argues that the new rules have been made along the lines of Chhattisgarh, under which the Chief Minister has the right to appoint members.
It is also necessary to understand the incident in Maharashtra, when no party got a majority in the Assembly elections. At that time, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari administered the oath of Chief Ministership to Devendra Fadnavis of BJP at the crack of dawn, without a majority. However, Fadnavis resigned shortly after and a new government was formed under the leadership of Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray. However, due to the split in the party, his government could not complete its term. But the whole episode has surely raised serious questions about the office of the Governor.
Apart from this, the Congress government of Chhattisgarh also accused the Governor of stalling a bill.
IS IT THE RIGHT TIME TO RETHINK THE POST OF GOVERNOR?
The way Governors and Lieutenant Governors have often been accused of harassing and obstructing the work of non-BJP governments at the behest of the Centre has created a big debate in the country. Should the post of Governor be abolished?
Senior Telangana CPI(M) leader K Narayan even said that the Governor system is not useful for our country and called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi that all the governors should be removed immediately.
In a programme in Delhi, former Supreme Court judge Gopal Gowda also said that nowadays, Governors are troubling Opposition-ruled state governments at the behest of the Centre, and this is not good for any democracy.
In our country, the Governor has been addressed with the word 'His Excellency', but many a times, their conduct does not seem to live up to the dignity of the words. Many experts say that all this is not new. Governors have been used politically in the past, too, but the present situation is appalling. There used to be a veil of shame and modesty, but now that has ended, say experts. Governors these days act like the Central government's people and party workers, which is extremely dangerous for a healthy democracy, they add.
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