Republic@70: Is it time to give up Governors as they continue to embarrass ?
At least three chief ministers, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal, raised the demand in 2016 at the Inter State Council meeting headed by the Prime Minister
Can Raj Bhavans be put to better use than hosting sorry representatives of the Raj?
The demand to abolish the post of Governors in the states, appointed by the President on the recommendation of the central government, is an old one. And at least three chief ministers, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal, raised the demand in 2016 at the Inter State Council meeting headed by the Prime Minister.
It has been argued that the institution is a relic of the Raj and does nothing to deepen democracy or strengthen democratic institutions. The ceremonial tasks that the Governor performs can well be done by the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Speaker of the Assembly. Nor is there any evidence that Governors as chancellors of state universities have contributed much to the cause of higher education.
On the contrary, the performance of many of the Governors has been embarrassing. At least one of them was caught at the age of 83 in bed with three much younger women. Another called upon people to boycott Kashmiri goods. A third one kicked up a ruckus after the Police Commissioner failed to be present at a university where the Governor came up against a hostile group of students. Many of the Governors of course merrily abuse the privileges but escape public scrutiny only because no auditing is generally done to spare them any embarrassment.
However, an online petition in Karnataka a few years ago for the removal of the Governor did make the following unverified but entirely plausible claim : “Talking about the current governor, Mr Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He travels in a Mercedes Benz worth Rs 80 lakh. He visits his hometown Rajkot in Gujarat in a private jet at a cost of Rs 5 lakh per trip. He watches national news on a television set worth Rs 15 lakh. His luxurious life style would put even the erstwhile British Commissioners who occupied the Raj Bhavan to shame.”
“The Governor is now embroiled in another controversy by refusing to meet former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda who had gone to the Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum. And why did Vala deny Gowda an audience? Well, His Excellency was enjoying a siesta.”
The framers of the Constitution had toyed with the idea of having a panel of eminent people for appointment as Governors, but eventually left it to the discretion of the President and the Union Government. It was a mistake in hindsight as successive central governments appointed partisan politicians, both active and those past their prime, as Governors, who did their bidding.
Far too many Governors have defied Constitutional norms by helping install minority governments, in encouraging if not engineering defections and in not inviting the single largest party to form the government. Many of them have been running a parallel government from the Raj Bhavans.
Could it be time to let them go? Could political parties put this in their manifesto? Or suggest a more acceptable and practical roles and modes of appointing Governors?