The BJP-led NDA government’s decision about Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan should not come as a surprise. News of him being shunted out were doing the rounds ever since the new government assumed power at the Centre and the union home ministry began the exercise of reviewing governors appointed during the Congress-led UPA regime. There cannot be two opinions over the fact that the sanctity attached to the governor’s post has fast eroded ever since their appointments and removals took on political colours. And no political party that has come to power in the last 67 years is an exception.
In Mr K Sankaranara- -yanan’s case, the NDA government’s stand was clear, as it had demanded his recall in February this year through a BJP-led delegation comprising Arun Jaitley, who was then the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, and other senior leaders of the party. The group had submitted a 13-point memorandum to the President of India after Sankaranarayanan refused the CBI sanction to prosecute
ex CM Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam case.
The decision had not gone down well with the principal opposition in Maharashtra - BJP and Shiv Sena, as it had argued that the governor had ignored the findings of a two-member commission, led by justice J A Patil, of a quid pro quo in the case. There was no proper application of mind while rejecting the permission to CBI, the delegation had argued before President Pranab Mukherjee.
Apart from this, the BJP had reservations over the 12 governor’s nominees as members to the State Council. Even as the state governor nominates them, the names are recommended by the state government and the ruling party plays an important role in this process. The term of previous appointees had ended on March 14 and the BJP had raised this issue with the central government, contending that fresh appointments should be deferred till a new government takes over in October-November this year.
The nomination of such members on the State Council, too, has lost its sheen, as they are being made purely on political basis, ignoring the constitutional provision which says that nominees should be from different fields of society like social service, literature, arts and culture, etc. But, the Cong-NCP government had its way and recommended its own party activists. In any case, BJP could not succeed in stalling the nominations.
Howsoever noble the issues raised by BJP may have been, it cannot be forgotten that they were not too keen to discuss the Justice Patil commission report in the state legislature, even though the Adarsh case has been one of the most controversial episodes in the history of the state’s governance. Such a debate would have been most appropriate in knowing how political parties looked at the decision-making process, and the roles played by babus and ministers. Besides that, one cannot overlook the fact that even the BJP-Shiv Sena had, in 1995, recommended its activists for the same Council seats.
It was also argued that the governor’s decision on Adarsh smacked of political overtones, given the fact that the ex CM’s relatives were direct beneficiaries of the society memberships. And, the inference by the governor, which said their membership cannot be linked to the ex CM as he was not heading the state revenue department at the time when they became members, was a point for a debate.
Sadly, the basic purpose of the post of the governor that the constitution defines is long lost. This is mainly because most appointees started working as rubber stamps on the advice of the ruling party. Though an elected government enjoys popular support received through ballot boxes, every decision it takes cannot be construed as sincere, at least in the present era.
At a time when a number of people in power are facing charges of corruption and nepotism, the role of a governor cannot remain confined or restricted to his or her political obligations. The governor can bring clarity on the oath taken by a minister that particularly says, “… I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will."”This is because most controversies relate to favouring one over the other - mostly the kith and kin of ministers.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day