Guv wrong in delaying swearing in

The impression of a smooth transition of government in Tamil Nadu after the death of J Jayalalithaa has been belied with the revolt of caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam against the AIADMK leadership. The party had elected V K Sasikala as its general secretary, which is its top political position, and early this week the legislature party elected her as its leader. The election as the legislature party leader was done in the regular course, following the right procedure, and its validity cannot be questioned. But the state Governor Vidyasagar Rao’s refusal to act on the legislature party’s recommendation has made the situation murky and introduced uncertainties into it. It was the constitutional duty of the governor to swear in chief minister designate Sasikala at the earliest. But he evaded this responsibility by absenting himself from his office in Chennai and camping in Mumbai. Even after he finally reached Chennai and met Sasikala, he has not acted and is dillydallying. There was also no need for him to meet Panneerselvam on Thursday.

After accepting the resignation of Panneerselvam, it was wrong on the part of the governor to delay the swearing-in of the new chief minister. It was the delay which emboldened Panneerselvam to raise the banner revolt. It has made a simple situation complex with more issues and players entering the situation. There is a view that Sasikala should wait for the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her before being sworn in. But the court’s statement that the order would be made within a week came later. If the governor had acted promptly after the resolution was passed, this consideration would not have been there. In any case, it should not be a consideration at all because it is the constitutional duty of the governor to swear in a leader who has support of the majority of the party. What happens to the chief minister later should not be the governor’s concern.

The governor is the President’s representative in a state but the Tamil Nadu governor has acted as the central government’s political agent in the state. The central government’s and the BJP’s interest in the state has been clear from the days when Jayalalithaa was in hospital. The Centre is now trying to implement its political plan for the state with the help of the governor and Panneerselvam. Whether Panneerselvam has greater popular support is not relevant to the situation. The only issue before the state is the constitutional responsibility of the governor to swear in the AIADMK legislature party leader as chief minister. If she fails to prove her majority in the House later, there are political and constitutional ways to deal with it.
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