Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Sacking Governors

The controversy over sacking UPA-appointed Governors across India continues, with the BJP government having succeeded in pushing out the Governor of West Bengal and Karnataka and transferring the Governor of Gujarat, who made headlines by taking on the then Modi government in the state. In addition, the Governor of Mizoram resigned after being transferred to Nagaland, for no apparent reason. Clearly, the pressure on UPA-appointed governors is large to resign and make way for the new dispensation.

Constitutionally, the Governor of a state is supposed to be its First Citizen and a respected figure, much like the President. However, since the days of Indira Gandhi, governors have been agents of the Central government, often meddling in the affairs of the state government, especially if they are not of the same party as the Central government. The Congress party is the primary actor in this area. Moreover, the last decade has also seen Raj Bhawans across India being converted into retirement houses for politicians well beyond their shelf life. As of May 2014, a majority of governors were former members of the Congress party. In 2004, the UPA Government sacked all NDA-appointed governors, forcing the Supreme Court to frame guidelines. Today, those very guidelines are being tested, ironically, on the BJP Government.

What is clear that the office of the State Governor has been eroded in terms of credibility. Not only have governors been used to interfere in States or as retirement houses, the case of Sheila Dixit proves that they are also being used to exploit the immunity given to them in criminal proceedings. Such a clause also exists for the President, but in case of proven misconduct in that office, Parliament has the power of impeachment. States have no such powers over the Governor, a clear inheritance from Nehru's unitary bias in government.

Because of these developments over the last few decades, all UPA-appointed governors should resign out of sheer moral preponderance. Those like Dixit, who will clearly not resign for fear of criminal charges being slapped, should be sacked with the justification that their office is impending justice, something that even the Supreme Court will not dispute if it comes to that. These are things that the current government would certainly do. However, because the office has been so badly eroded, it must be overhauled once and for all.

States should elect their own governors like the President, through an electoral college, and must have the power to impeach them on proper grounds. At most, the President should have the power to only recommend that a certain name not be included on the nomination list, for proper reasons to be given in writing. India is no longer a weak union of states that needs a strong Central government to keep it united. India has matured for the most part into a large federation and states have a right to their autonomy, not compromising the integrity of the union. The Modi Government talks a lot about empowering states, with Modi himself having faced the onslaught of a hostile Congress-agent in Raj Bhawan, Gandhinagar. It is time it did something about it for good. 

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