Governors: Laat Sahibs flexing muscles to cow down state governments

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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Of late there have been numerous instances of Governors involved in ugly spats with state governments.

Although the centre-state relations have remained strained on various issues in the past, it is difficult to recall any time in the past when states ruled by non-bjp governments, are so much suspicious about the central government.

governor

Increasingly the Governors are being used as instruments to interfere in the functioning of state governments by taking controversial decisions.

The governors were so far seen only as ceremonial heads and their role was to ensure that the state governments function within the confines of the constitution. They had been keeping themselves away from politics.

Not any more. The appointees these days are not necessarily men of merit who have had a long experience in public life. Now one of their major qualification has to be they they have affiliation or backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

This is also true about appointments to almost all constitutional posts in the country.

Of late there have been numerous instances of Governors involved in ugly spats with state governments.

Former West Bengal governor and current Vice President of the country, Jagdeep Dhankar, is a prime example of such interference. He held back several bills passed by the Mamata Banerji government and often came out with statements with critical references to the government.

Under various statutes and rules, Governors are ceremonial chancellors of public owned universities. They are supposed to formally appoint vice chancellors and preside over convocations or approve formal notifications.

However Dhankar began interfering in the working of the universities and questioning the appointments approved by the state governments.

This had led to a strong stand off between him and the chief minister till he was nominated for the post of Vice President of the country.

The same issue has cropped up in Punjab and Karnataka where the governors concerned have objected to the appointment of vice chancellors and have sought removal of vice chancellors who had been appointed reportedly without following the due process.

governor
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan

In the last such interference, the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has asked the chief minister to remove the state finance minister from his cabinet as he had “seized to enjoy pleasure” of the Governor. All that the minister had done was that he had given his views on security given to a Vice Chancellor in Uttar Pradesh !

There are several other aspects of centre-state relations which are increasingly coming under strain. There have been strong differences over the working of the GST Council and the centre clawing away at the powers which were earlier unquestionably enjoyed by the states.

This has also led to growing suspicion. No wonder several states have withdraw the general consent these governments had given to the CBI to investigate cases in the states. Several states like West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Mizoram have withdrawn the general consent. The latest to do so is Telengana. These states evidently are of the view that the CBI had been misusing the consent.

Another such decision taken by the centre was announced by Home Minister Amit Shah who announced last week that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall have offices across the country in various states even though law and order is a state subject.

Amit Shah addresses during ‘Chintan Shivir’ of home ministers of all states

It is ironical that as chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi was among the most vocal advocates for the rights of the states as per the spirit of the constitution.

He had been pushing hard for greater fiscal autonomy for the states, was critical of the central schemes and had been arguing before the Planning Commission that it was unfair to force the states into rigid, one-size-fits-all, centrally-driven agendas that went against the grain of India’s federal structure and had declared that the states “do not want to be mere appendages of the Centre.”

Yet, rather than promote cooperative federalism through its policy actions, his government has carefully manoeuvred Centre-state relations to tilt the balance of power firmly toward the Centre.

The constitution provided for a fine balance between the centre and the states with clear demarcation of areas in central and state list.

It is evident that the delicate balance between the centre and the states is getting disturbed. It is time to restore the balance.

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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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