Disturbing deviance in appointing governors

Disturbing deviance in appointing governors

There was a time when Raj Bhavans were mansions of ceremony occupied by men and women of eminence whose mandate was to ensure that the State was ruled in consonance with the Constitution. That is, before men with extraordinary constitution and rapacious appetite for women occupied them. N D Tiwari’s exploits with nubile women served to bring Raj Bhavans into focus for the wrong reasons.

The Constitution is not very forthcoming on the qualifications for the office of Governor, except that she/he should be a citizen of India and have attained 35 years of age, much the same as the criteria for the President of India, except that the latter has to be qualified for election as a member of the House of the People, which means she/he should be of sound mind, a qualification not mandatory in the case of Governors.
The drafters of the Constitution of India did not attach stringent conditions as qualifications for election as President or for appointment for the post of Governors. Apparently they who had participated in the greatest and most unique freedom struggle in the history were under the impression that the persons who would grace such Constitutional posts would be women and men much like them, in other words, persons of eminence, character, learning and willingness to sacrifice.

In the early decades of Independent India, the Governors were women and men of eminence, educated gentry with attainments in life. Renowned academics like Prof Zakir Hussain and Nurul Hassan, Labour leader V V Giri (later to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan), leaders of freedom struggle Kailash Nath Katju, Anantashayanam Ayangar, Jurists P N Bhagwati and Obul Reddy were some of the well known names who served as Governors.

The Congress began devaluing the office of Governors by appointing its unemployed or unwanted politicians to the Raj Bhavans. Activist K G Kannabiran, in one of his articles quotes from a line by M R Radha in the Tamil blockbuster, Rattha Kanneer: “The Congress party is a very clever political party. If their candidate wins he becomes a minister; if he gets defeated he becomes a governor”. And that was in ‘50s when Jawaharlal Nehru’s loyalty to Constitution limited mischief by Governors to two instances - Governor Sri Prakasa of the composite Madras State allowing a minority Congress to form the government to keep Communists out of power, and Ramakrishna Rao dismissing the first elected Communist government in Kerala in 1959.

As long as the nationwide hegemony of the Congress lasted, the gubernatorial appointees were fairly decent men. With the rise of opposition parties and regional political formations that wrested power from the Congress in States, the character of appointees to Raj Bhavans changed. The ruling party wanted pliable persons with flexible spines and conscience. Governors became the hatchet men of the government at the Centre, irrespective of the party in power. Armed with the weapon of constitutional destruction in Article 356 under which they could dismiss the State Governments, they became a threat to democratic governments in States, rather than protectors of the Constitution. Till 1998, Article 356 was used 108 times, most of the times for the flimsiest of reasons.

Over the last 10 years, Article 356 seems to have gone into cold storage, but the quality of Governors has not improved. The tendency to use the gubernatorial office as sinecure, as a rehabilitation centre became pronounced. The Congress began the practice of appointing its superannuated politicians, but the BJP which ruled for six years at the Centre was a quick learner. A more disturbing deviance in the trend is the propensity to appoint out-of-work politicians, retired bureaucrats, army brass and intelligence officials who have served their masters well.
That trend persists. Of the 30 Governors, Lt. Governors and Administrators of Union Territories, 14 are UPA politicians - 13 of them from the Congress, five former IAS officers, five ex-IPS including two former IB Directors, and four Generals of the Army including two former Chiefs of Staff.
There are no academics, scientists, educationists. No former Judges nor those who have served social causes.
Truly, change has come to India.

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