February 19, 2023

Governors as Agents of Ruling Party

THE recent appointment of six new governors by the president of India has revealed a lot about how the post of governor is viewed and cynically misused by the Modi government.

The appointment of Justice S Abdul Nazeer, who had retired from the Supreme Court just two months ago, as the governor of Andhra Pradesh is an egregious example of how the Modi government distributes this sinecure post. It may be recalled that Justice Nazeer was part of the five-member bench which gave a unanimous verdict in the Ayodhya dispute case in 2019.  As such, this appointment is being widely seen as a quid pro quo

The Modi government has the dubious record of having appointed Justice P Sathasivam as governor of Kerala in 2014 – the first instance of a retired chief justice of India becoming a governor. This step had drawn widespread criticism from retired judges and jurists who saw in this move a threat to judicial independence.

Four of the other appointees belong to the RSS-BJP pedigree.  They are mostly second rank leaders of the BJP, whose only qualification presumably is their loyalty to the ruling party and the RSS.  How they perform their duties as governor is going to be determined by their fealty to the ruling party.  This is evident in how one of the appointees has expressed slavish gratitude to the ruling party leaders.  CP Radhakrishnan, a former BJP member of parliament from Tamilnadu, has tweeted his heartfelt thanks not only to the Rashtrapathiji but also to “our beloved most respected honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji and our beloved most respected honourable Home Minister Shri Amit Shahji” on being appointed as the governor of Jharkhand.  Displaying such slavish gratitude upon being rewarded, his behavior as a governor can also be predicted. 

For Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the choice of governors is from a pool of loyal party functionaries, RSS swayamsewaks and pliable retired bureaucrats and generals. The governors appointed to the non-BJP ruled states in the past few years have shown them to be  agents of the ruling party, or, worse  political henchmen. 

These governors have trampled upon constitutional norms and arrogated to themselves the task of supervising and interfering in matters which concern the elected state governments.  A latest example of such an overbearing attitude is the letter sent by the Punjab governor, Banwarilal Purohit to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann questioning the selection process of principals of schools who were sent abroad for training and other similar decisions of the state government. 

From refusing to read out parts of the governor’s address to the state legislature, summoning senior officers and giving directions to them, public criticism of the political positions of the ruling party of the state and refusal to give assent to pending legislations – BJP-appointed governors are constantly misusing the ornamental post of governor. 

All the non-BJP run state governments must come together to demand an end to the unconstitutional acts of the governors which are encouraged and abetted by the central government.  Public campaigns should be launched in these states to mobilise the people to defend the federal principle and to check the arbitrary actions of governors.

 (February 15, 2023)