Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments on Tuesday — signalling UPA-appointed Governors to quit because of the change in regime — doesn’t square with what his party elders A B Vaypayee and L K Advani had said when the UPA sacked Governors appointed by the NDA in 2004.
The sacking of Governors Vishnu Kant Shashtri (Uttar Pradesh), Babu Parmananda (Haryana), Kidar Nath Sahani (Goa) and Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat) — on the ground that they espoused different political ideology during the course of their active political career than the political ideology of the party in power — was termed as a “big blow to democracy” by former PM Vajpayee while Advani dubbed it a “dangerous” practice.
As the Leader of Opposition, Advani had forced a discussion in the Lok Sabha under Rule 193 over sacking of the NDA-appointed Governors. Citing arguments by B R Ambedkar, K T Shah during Constituent Assembly debates, he had said that Governors need not be changed because of the change of government at the Centre.
“When V P Singh was the Prime Minister, all Governors were removed. At that time, the Home Minister was Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s statement simply was: ‘With the change of government at the Centre, there should also be a change of Governors,” Advani had said, initiating the discussion on July 12, 2004.
“While Shri Mufti’s doctrine was fallacious, (Home Minister) Shivraj Patil’s doctrine is dangerous. I regard it as ominous. Today, we have, in the country, parties governing major states whose ideologies we do not agree with. But that does not mean that that can be the justification for invoking Article 356. Can it be?” he had said, objecting to the removal of the four Governors appointed by the previous NDA regime. “Are ideologies to be the touchstones for matters of this constitutional nature?”
“What has been done now in the case of these four Governors has, I believe, weakened the federal structure of the country. I regard the doctrine, which has been propounded, or the rationale, which has been given, that they have an ideology which is different from ours and that will create problems as an outrageous assault on the concept of multi-party democracy enshrined in the Indian Constitution,” Advani had said, appealing Home Minister Patil to reconsider the sacking of the four Governors.
Advani had likened the move of having Governors with ideologies similar to that of the party in power at Centre as that with the practice of “committed judiciary” adopted by Indira Gandhi government ahead of the Emergency.
“I hold that it was in 1973 that the basic seeds were sown for what happened in 1975. It was started in 1973 with the concept and doctrine of committed judiciary. On that ground supersession of judges was justified. Similarly, today the doctrine of committed Governors is being propounded,” he had said.
Advani had also highlighted the Sarkaria Commission, which was set up by Indira Gandhi, and its subsequent endorsement by the Inter-State Council regarding the appointment and removal of Governors to criticise the UPA-I’s decision.
“The Sarkaria Commission has given a lot of space to discussing that the tenure of the Governor should be secured. It has talked about the security of tenure for the Governor,” Advani said. “When the Inter-State Council considered this matter, it came to the conclusion and this means that it is not merely the Central Government, it also means virtually all the state governments and the Centre coming to a conclusion that they accepted the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission that the Governor’s tenure of office of five years should not be disturbed except very rarely and that too for some extremely compelling reasons.”
While Vajpayee did not speak during the discussion in Lok Sabha, news reports had quoted him as having termed the removal of NDA-appointed Governors as a “big blow democracy”.