'Ousting' governors shows a change of tack by Modi

'Ousting' governors shows a change of tack by Modi

The Centre’s move to make it known to some of the Congress-appointed Governors that they must quit in the wake of change in government is seen as a change of tack by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after he was sworn-in as PM, Modi and other senior BJP leaders were said to have taken the view that they would let Congress-appointed governors retire on completion of their term over the next few months or transfer them, rather than undertake a big exercise to remove them summarily, which would go against the Supreme Court verdict of 2010.

In fact, Modi tasked Congress-appointed E S L Narasimhan, who is Governor of both Andhra Pradesh and the new state of Telangana, with a special role of overseeing the bifurcation process. In other cases, he had even written to them to attend his swearing-in ceremony last month.

Of the Congress-appointed governors, Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj is due to retire on June 29, Haryana Governor Jagannath Pahadiya on July 26 and Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva on August 5, while Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal’s tenure will come to an end on November 27. Others who will complete their tenure in six to eight months are - M K Narayanan (West Bengal), J B Patnaik (Assam), Shivraj Patil (Punjab) and Urmila Singh (Himachal Pradesh).

But a call from Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami to the governors, apparently to convey the new government’s desire that they step down, seemed to show a change in the BJP’s approach.

BJP sources said the change could be linked to the political plans of the government and the party leadership.

One, there is a move to accommodate veteran leaders who could not be made ministers. Secondly, the party is also working towards the possibility of an early Assembly election in UP and Bihar, where the BJP did exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha polls.

UP polls are due only in 2017 while elections will be held in Bihar next year. The BJP leaders in these states were keen that the Centre would “respond” to the evolving political situation, which could facilitate early elections if the occupants of the Raj Bhavan were not Congress appointees.

As for finding roles for senior party leaders, Modi was said to be under pressure from within the ranks to accommodate them in gubernatorial posts before he undertook an expansion of his council of ministers later this month. That would pave the way for a younger lot of leaders to take charge in different states.

Berth pangs in BJP

Already, the names of BJP leaders, including Yashwant Sinha, V K Malhotra, Lalji Tandon, Kalyan Singh, Kesri Nath Tripathi and O Rajagopal, were stated to be in the race to fill vacancies as they arise. Malhotra's name did the rounds for the gubernatorial role in Karnataka.

Significantly, Sinha has also pitched for his projection as a probable chief minister candidate in Jharkhand where he has refused to post bail after he was arrested for allegedly ordering BJP workers to tie up an Electricity Board official in Hazaribagh, the constituency that he gave up in the Lok Sabha elections in favour of his son, Jayant.

The move to change some governors was also linked to a CBI probe in the VVIP helicopter purchase deal. The CBI is expected to send teams to examine West Bengal Governor Narayanan and his Goa counterpart B V Wanchoo as “witnesses” in connection with its probe.

The name of Nagaland Governor Ashwani Kumar, a former CBI director, had also figured in connection with a probe in hawala operator’s case, official sources said.

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