As this is being written at least five posts of Governors lie vacant after the incumbents appointed by the previous UPA government were virtually induced to resign. The resignations led to a war of words between Congress and BJP. The Congress referred to a Supreme Court Constitutional Bench order of May 2010 which stated:
“As there is no need to assign reasons, any removal as a consequence of withdrawal of the pleasure will be assumed to be valid and will be open to only a limited judicial review. If the aggrieved person is able to demonstrate prima facie that his removal was either arbitrary, malafide, capricious or whimsical, the court will call upon the Union government to disclose to the court, the material upon which the President had taken the decision to withdraw the pleasure. If the Union government does not disclose any reason, or if the reasons disclosed are found to be irrelevant, arbitrary, whimsical, or malafide, the court will interfere. However, the court will not interfere merely on the ground that a different view is possible or that the material or reasons are insufficient.”
The BJP hit back to remind the Congress about how it had on previous occasion forced Governors appointed by the NDA government to resign. One would not like to enter this meaningless argument in which both sides, including all jurists and commentators, base their comments on an erroneous view about the Governor’s role as per our Constitution. The Constitution renders the Governor’s office entirely accountable to the President who in no manner with regard to Governors is dependent upon the Union Cabinet’s advice. What merits attention currently is the politics behind the dispute.
The burden of the BJP arguments is that the appointment of Governors is a political decision. A number of BJP leaders have advanced this view to justify the removal of Governors. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that with a change of regime governors should be changed. He said that if he were in the place of the present Governors he would have quit. BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy and spokesperson Kiran Bedi echoed this view. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that the incumbent Governors should have resigned themselves as most of them were appointed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The implication being that only Governors in line with the government’s thinking should be appointed. All that may be justified on the basis of our flawed political tradition. But the mystery arises because of the curious decision by the Modi government related to the Gujarat Governor.
The current Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal who had been at odds with Narendra Modi when he was CM has been transferred to Mizoram. That is standard political behaviour by the government, no mystery in that. What is truly mysterious is why the Gujarat post could not be kept vacant along with half a dozen other posts of Governors for a few days. Instead Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva has been given additional charge as Governor of Gujarat. Earlier Margaret Alva had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was described as a courtesy call. She completes her five year term in August. It is understood that she has not been sounded to resign as yet. Do not Mr. Swamy and other leaders of the party know that she too was appointed by Sonia Gandhi as Governor? Do they not know that she is in fact a very close confidant and a favourite of the Congress President? What happened to the BJP dictum that Governors should be in line with the government’s thinking? Or do Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi have similar thinking? What prevented the PM from appointing any of the half a dozen BJP leaders waiting in the wings to be sworn in as Governors? What prevented the PM from keeping the post vacant for a short time along with half a dozen other states? This writer would not like to comment on this development. He would not like to remind readers of half a dozen incidents pointed out by him earlier indicating close collusion between the Congress and the BJP. He would prefer to wait for an explanation by BJP leaders to clear this mystery. Till then, judgment is suspended.