WEEKS AFTER he criticised the Chief Minister’s handling of the Covid crisis, Goa Governor Satya Pal Malik was Tuesday transferred to Meghalaya. The move comes just 10 months after Malik was moved to Goa from J&K following the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories.
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has been given additional charge of Goa while Malik is expected to leave for Meghalaya Wednesday morning. “During my tenure in Goa, which was almost 10 months, the experience has been nothing but pleasant,” Malik said in a statement.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is yet to comment on the abrupt shift but Congress Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat criticised the timing, saying the “government could have benefited from his experience and guidance”.
The friction between Malik and Sawant first became public on July 16, when the Covid case count clocked 1,272 and the Governor pointed to the government’s “mistakes” and “shortcomings”.
He also alleged that the government had kept him in the dark on the outbreak and measures taken. The situation, he said, was so “dire” that he had to rely on Raj Bhavan employees, who travel from containment zones, to confirm media reports.
Later that day, as the death toll reached 19, Malik expressed his displeasure at the medical response. “Deaths are increasing and they cannot use comorbidity as an excuse for increasing deaths,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Goa had a total of over 11,000 confirmed cases with 111 deaths.
Malik had also publicly reprimanded Sawant for allegedly misquoting him after the Chief Minister told reporters that the Governor was upset with media coverage of the pandemic.
“It’s impropriety… this is highly improper and no civilised person should do or say so or put words in anyone’s mouth. I have been in public life for 50 years and I never had any complaints with the media,” Malik said.
Just two weeks ago, after Sawant revealed plans to construct a new Raj Bhavan citing a PWD report that it was difficult to maintain the existing Portuguese structure, Malik wrote a letter to the CM, calling the proposal “imprudent and irrational” at a time “when the state is battling Covid-19”.
“With the government not keeping him in the loop, the Governor had begun to take interest in encouraging traditional modes of economy, like agriculture. This wasn’t appreciated by the government, which is pushing for mining,” said sources.
When contacted, Goa BJP leaders said the “transfer of Governors is not a state party issue”. Opposition leaders said Malik had shown “democratic openness” and kept his doors open for “anyone with a grievance”.
“As Leader of Opposition, I had called him in the beginning of the lockdown to bring to his notice that people were not getting groceries or essentials. He had intervened. He always stood for the welfare of people and listened to all sides,” said Kamat.
Malik’s stint in J&K — he was previously Bihar Governor — was also marked by controversial comments, including the claim that he did not believe information provided by the Intelligence Bureau, an agency that reports directly to Home Minister Amit Shah. Earlier too, he had made controversial remarks about senior ministers in the government talking about winning back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.