The idea of an elected governor was very much present on the minds of those framing the Constitution, who were looking at the office of the Governor from the point of view of the British Raj.
In the last 68 years (since 1950), our experience has been one of using the governor for the Union government’s advantage — whenever there was a change of government in the Centre, the governors were asked to resign politely, or, were forced to resign.
Therefore, the office of the Governor, instead of being a Constitutional head of the state, has been reduced to that of being the Centre’s agent in the state. The Governors have also been criticised for misusing Article 356 (imposing President’s rule on a state) by dismissing the elected state governments. Our past shows that the office of the Governor has been used, misused and abused.
The Sarkaria Commission (1987) which was appointed to study the Union-State relations, included the office of the Governor. Its recommendations are – he should be a person from another state and he should be a person who has not taken too great a part in politics, particularly in the recent past. The practice has been to appoint not only politicians, but also those who played an active and controversial role in party politics.
It is desirable that the Governor is appointed through a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Minister of the concerned state.
The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Venkatachaliah and the Punchhi Commission (2010) clearly spelt out how a Chief Minister (CM) should be appointed. One can see a flagrant violation of norms in the recent times in the appointment of CMs in various states.
There has never been such a long gap (more than a year) as seen in the appointment of a governor for Tamil Nadu. When TN required a Governor most (in the aftermath of J Jayalalithaa’s death), the state had only a Governor looking after two states.
The political situation required a full-time governor, but the state had to wait for more than a year to get a governor of its own. Appointed as the new Governor of Tamil Nadu, Banwarilal Purohit is from Maharashtra and he has tried his political fortune with both the Congress and the BJP. He also has the experience of starting his own party in 2013, the Vidarba Rajya Party, and the experience of running one of the earliest newspapers, The Hitavada, started by Gopal Krishana Gokhale during the freedom struggle. Hailing from Assam he has one year’s experience as a Governor.
The relationship between a governor and the CM s in TN has been smooth, except once, when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister (1994); the relationship between her and the then Governor Dr M Chenna Reddy became strained and she boycotted the functions attended by him. She did not receive the Governor on the Republic Day for the ceremonial flag hoisting. She even denied the Governor his customary New year address to the Assembly. TN has been under President’s rule five times in its history since Independence.
All the political parties in TN would expect him to play his Constitutional role as Governor and be non-partisan in his approach.
— The writer is a political analyst