Updated: January 29, 2016 12:21:43 am
A new, improved form of federalism, cooperative rather than obstructive, numbered among the promises of Narendra Modi’s campaign in 2014. However, the choice of governors does not seem to have been made with the priority of smoothing over Centre-state relations. Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa offers a particularly egregious example, citing cow slaughter as evidence of the collapse of law and order in the frontline state. He has also said that he was “abused, threatened and nearly assaulted” by some ministers of the Nabam Tuki government. He is certainly not the first governor to suffer such a fate in our unruly polity, and the police is deemed to be sufficient to deal with such situations. The brahmastra of president’s rule is generally not invoked when one person feels threatened. It is reserved for more extreme situations, in which the provisions of the Constitution are threatened.
In Delhi, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung’s commitment to putting bounds on the Arvind Kejriwal government has poisoned the air, and at one point, the conflict seemed to be turning into India’s very own Thirty Years’ War. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Seven Sisters, Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy has proved to be a serial offender of political propriety and public taste. He had prescribed “surveillance” for those who attended the funeral of Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, believing that they were “potential terrorists”. Most embarrassingly, when West Bengal hosted Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, Roy tweeted darkly about alleged massacres of Hindus in 1950, and urged Bengalis not to forget their suffering at the hands of “Pakis”. This inflammatory and insulting statement was made at a time when West Bengal was trying to erase the hurt of Ali being prevented from performing in Mumbai by the Shiv Sena. Roy was not dissuaded by hopes of normalising the peace process, on which the prestige of the BJP at the Centre depends. Roy has also identified himself as Hindu rather than secular, and his Twitter handle defines him as “a proud bhakt and swayamsevak” — a questionable public position for someone holding constitutional office,
Governors are expected to rise above party positions and projects when they assume office. And the ruling of S.R. Bommai vs Union of India laid down specific prerequisites for the imposition of Article 356, the first being a test of the ruling party’s majority on the floor of the House. The fundamental duty of a governor is to prevent genuine constitutional crises. Unfortunately, the ancient Congress tradition of using governors for political ends seems to have been inherited by the BJP — the very party which was expected to usher in a new era of healthy Centre-state relations.
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