Bedi & Tripathi not alone, BJP-appointed guvs repeatedly crossing boundaries
There's nothing new about accusations of state governors acting as agents of the party in power at the Centre. But the new wave of NDA-appointed governors seem to have gone a step further.
Not only are the titular heads of the states being brazen in their partisan ways, some of them have also shed constitutional inhibitions.
At the moment, there are two alleged examples of this playing out – in West Bengal and Puducherry. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has publicly lambasted Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, while Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy has been equally vocal in denouncing Kiran Bedi, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Union Territory.
Their accusations are similar – both the CMs have said the BJP appointees are going the extra mile to further the interests of their political masters in New Delhi.
First, Banerjee went public with her accusations that Tripathi was acting like a “BJP block president”, also charging him with “insulting” and even “threatening” her on the issue of the communal violence in Basirhat, North 24 Parganas district.
Just a day later, Narayanaswamy called L-G Bedi a "BJP agent", and accused her of the "murder of democracy", after she “secretly” swore in three nominated BJP members of the Puducherry Assembly.
Appointed as the L-G in May 2016, former top cop Bedi has constantly been at loggerheads with Narayanasamy's Congress government. But the tussle reached a flashpoint on Tuesday after she swore in BJP's Puducherry unit president V Swaminathan, state unit treasurer KG Shankar, and RSS functionary Selvaganapathy.
While Bedi has fervently defended her act, the Congress has called for her ouster, and will also observe a bandh on 8 July in protest.
The Congress accused Bedi of “violating every established norm and tradition”, with party spokesperson Sushmita Dev calling her a "political puppet serving the interests of the BJP” instead of the Constitution.
While Tripathi has mostly communicated through the Raj Bhavan to dismiss Banerjee's charges, Bedi took to social media, and also talked to the media, defending her actions and daring the Congress to move court.
“What do I do if they (MLAs) come to me saying that they have not been given any time frame for their swearing in? I am bound by the law and implemented what the law says,” she said, citing provisions of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963.
“I am an agent of law, and that's exactly what I have done. If they feel aggrieved, they can go to the court,” said a defiant Bedi.
When reminded about Congress legislator K Lakshminarayanan moving the Madras High Court challenging the Centre's notification in this regard, Bedi said: “I will wait for the court's orders. If I have done something illegal, I should be removed; I have no business to stay.”
Not the first time
Bedi and Tripathi are only two of the names in the long list of Governors allegedly used by the Modi regime against its adversaries in non-BJP ruled states.
1. Mridula Sinha, Goa
Sinha is a prime example – ignoring the custom of inviting the single largest party after the Goa Assembly polls threw up a fractured mandate, Sinha appointed BJP's Manohar Parrikar as the Chief Minister. To top it all, she later admitted that she had called Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before her decision to invite the BJP to form the government. Her sensational revelation had led the aggrieved Congress to clamour for her ouster.
2. Najma Heptulla, Manipur
Sinha's Manipur counterpart, Najma Heptulla, achieved a similar feat when she invited the BJP to form the government in the Northeastern state instead of the Congress, which had emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly polls.
3. Tathagata Roy, Tripura
Unabashedly communal, the engineer-turned-swayamsevak-turned politician was appointed Governor in 2015, but has been relentless in spewing venom against minorities on Twitter.
From calling those who had assembled at Yakub Memon's funeral as 'potential terrorists', to prescribing that the terrorists gunned down in Pathankot be wrapped in pigskin and buried in pig excreta, Roy has been undeterred in his campaign, despite severe backlash.
4. JP Rajkhowa (Arunachal Pradesh, dismissed)
One of the most controversial figures among even the saffron governors, JP Rajkhowa suffered the ignominy of dismissal.
His action of advancing a session of the Arunachal Assembly eventually led to the imposition of President's Rule in the state. His action attracted a severe reprimand from the Supreme Court, and he was subsequently dismissed by President Pranab Mukherjee.
While the recent spats have reignited the debate over the need for a Governor, political observers say the misuse of Raj Bhavans will continue, because it suits the parties in power.
“The misuse of the post of Governor is an ill that has long plagued Indian politics, though the intensity and brazenness may have intensified under the current regime. The misuse will continue so long as the party in power at the Centre sees Raj Bhavan as a tool to destabilise states where it is not in power,” says Abhay Dubey of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)
But Dubey feels that the Governor's post is indispensable. “Doing away with the system is not the answer. A Governor is an essential part of the government. There may be many instances of them being mere 'rubber stamps', but there are also instances when they have acted to preserve and protect the Constitution,” he added.