Modi govt continues to use governors to needle Opposition-ruled state governments
Governors are blatantly interfering with governance by Opposition-ruled states at the behest of the BJP’s top leadership
In the latest episode of its conflict with the BJP-led Union government, the Delhi government led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has accused the Lieutenant Governor’s office of “derailing” governance in the National Capital Territory of Delhi in a submission made to the Supreme Court.
This trend has been seen in several states during the last eight years of PM Modi’s regime which has allegedly used the office of the governors to blatantly interfere with the day-to-day functioning of the state governments in Opposition-ruled states.
Such allegations, which also included not giving a fair chance to form the government to political parties that won the largest number of seats and encouraging defections to destabilise the democratically-elected governments, earlier surfaced in West Bengal, Manipur, Goa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry, etc.
The political parties in the Opposition have been contending all along that the Modi government is misusing the office of governors against the states ruled by them.
In the present case, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia has alleged in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court of India that bureaucrats are not taking calls, “disobeying orders of the minister” and treating the elected government with “indifference”.
Several other issues that the AAP government is facing have also been listed in the affidavit to the court. The problem has “become more acute with the appointment of Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena earlier this year,” the affidavit said.
“Any co-operation between the civil servants and the elected government is sought to be penalised and recalcitrance towards the elected government is being encouraged,” the affidavit also said.
The affidavit has been filed in the case concerning the Delhi government’s dispute with the Centre over who has control over services in the national capital.
It gave examples of “derailment of governance”. It said that in 20 meetings called by the Minister of Environment, Forests and Wildlife between May and October this year, only one was attended by the additional chief secretary/principal secretary of the department, adding that the meetings were called to discuss the Winter Pollution Action Plan of 2022, procurement of mobile anti-smog guns, and preparation to implement the ban of firecrackers.
The governor of Tamil Nadu R N Ravi and the ruling DMK have been at loggerheads for quite some time on several issues. The DMK and its allies wanted an audience with the President of India Draupadi Murmu but failed in getting an appointment with her, after which they submitted a memorandum addressed to her, which demanded Ravi’s recall.
It was said in the memorandum that 20 bills passed by the Tami Nadu Vidhan Sabha are awaiting the assent of the governor. It even said that “Ravi was unfit to hold the constitutional office."
The governor, a nominee of the Centre and an unelected person opposing an elected state government, was a perversion of the constitutional set-up and a death knell to democracy, the memorandum read.
It stated that the Tamil Nadu governor “violated the oath taken by him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." Rather, he has been “instigating communal hatred and is a threat to the peace and tranquillity of the state," it added.
“Some might even consider his statements as seditious as they bring or attempt to bring hatred or contempt or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law,” it went on to say.
The tussle between Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the LDF-led state government is already well-known. On November 9, the state cabinet decided to bring an ordinance to strip the governor of the post of chancellor of the state’s universities. Governor Khan has hinted that he may refer the matter to the President of India, and in that case the state assembly would not be able to pass the Bill until the President allows it.
The LDF is now planning to protest against the non-cooperation of the governor and the Union government in matters of governance. It is trying to get the support of all non-BJP state governments in the country.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao recently alleged that the Union government conspired to topple his government along with three other states – Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan. His allegation is based on the statement of the arrested “agents” of Delhi. The state government has also been at loggerheads with the governor Tamilisai Sounderarajan on several issues including the ‘Poachgate row’.
There is also a standoff between the two over the Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, which the governor has refused to clear. On November 9, governor Sounderarajan opened another front against the state government by alleging that she has “a feeling” that her phone was being tapped.
Several other state governments have come out with Bills against their governors, which includes Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Maharashtra. West Bengal had brought the West Bengal University Law (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to curb the powers of the then governor (now Vice President) Jagdeep Dhankar who returned the Bill to the state cabinet.
Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government had a similar experiment in 2021. Rajasthan State Funded Universities Bill was also an attempt to curb the powers of the governor. The AAP-led Punjab government is also planning to bring similar legislations.
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