A pre-emptive move by Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi against a possible removal from the gubernatorial post has thrown a spanner in Narendra Modi government’s efforts to get rid of UPA-appointees at Raj Bhavans.
An adverse order in the case would make it difficult for the NDA government, which was stumped by Qureshi’s move to approach the Supreme Court and bringing the whole process under judicial lens, to go ahead in “nudging” such governors to quit.
Qureshi, a senior Congress leader who is the first Governor to approach the Supreme Court against the NDA government, has alleged that he was threatened by Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami to resign or face removal by the Centre.
His decision to approach the Supreme Court is a rewind of the episode in 2004 when former Rajya Sabha MP B P Singhal went to the apex court against the sacking of four NDA-appointed governors by the UPA when it assumed power. The culmination of Singhal’s petition was the landmark 2010 judgement, which warned against arbitrary removal of governors.
With senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid leading the legal battle for him in Supreme Court, the party is also keenly waiting for the outcome of the case. The Congress has an axe to grind as the NDA sacked Mizoram Governor Kamla Beniwal and Puduchery Lt Governor Virendra Kataria, both senior Congress leaders.
The Centre had tasked Goswami to “nudge” UPA-appointed governors to resign.
However, political appointees like Sheila Dikshit (Kerala) and K Sankaranarayanan (Maharashtra) refused to quit while former bureaucrats in Raj Bhavans fell in line. At present, four states — Karnataka, Tripura, Goa and Rajasthan — do not have full-time governors and the BJP has not taken a final call on the names that could be sent to Raj Bhavans.
Last month, the NDA government appointed six new governors in two batches.
This is not the first time that a Governor and the Centre is engaged in a confrontation.
The first time governors faced the axe was in 1977 when a party other than the Congress assumed power for the first time.
In 1998, when the BJP came to power, it was reported that then Union Home Secretary B P Singh asked governors of Gujarat, Goa and Mizoram to put in their papers.
In 2004, the UPA dismissed governors Kidar Nath Sahni (Goa), Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat), Babu Parmanand (Haryana) and Vishnu Kant Shastri (Uttar Pradesh).