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India

8 Instances Of State Government’s Battle With Centre-Appointed Governors   

In one of the more recent cases in Tamil Nadu, the government accused the Centre-appointed governor of “dangerous, divisive, religious rhetoric”.

Kerala Gov Arif Mohammad Khan, Kerala CM Vijayan, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena (Photo Credit: File/ANI)

Accusations of meddling and hindrance in carrying out their work, state governments have been alleging Centre-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not follow the federal structure of the Constitution. India Ahead looks into the feud in eight of the states and union territories including Kerala where the governor has been accused of “conniving to appoint BJP sympathizers”; to Delhi, where the elected government has accused the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of a “complete disregard of constitutional commitments to representative democracy and federalism”.

In one of the more recent cases in Tamil Nadu, the government accused the Centre-appointed governor of “dangerous, divisive, religious rhetoric”.

Kerala 

In Kerala, it’s the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is at loggerheads with its Governor Arif Mohammad Khan. It has reached a point where the State cabinet has voted to bring in an ordinance to remove the Governor as the Chancellor of the state universities.

Thomas Isaac, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and former finance minister in the State, in a Tweet, accused the governor of “conniving to appoint BJP sympathizers as VCs of Universities.” This he said left the State government with “no choice” but to “remove Governor from the post of Chancellor and appoint eminent academics in his place.”

The move by the Kerala government came after Khan on October 23 issued an order asking the Vice Chancellors of nine universities in the state to resign. While this has now been challenged in the High Court and will come up for hearing on November 17, the State looks to have made its counter-offensive move.

Other than that, another recent incident which has seen the governor and the state government involves journalists. Khan in an unprecedented move, expelled reporters of Malayalam TV channels – Kairali and Media One – from his press briefing at Ernakulam, on November 7, claiming they were biased towards the state government.

Tamil Nadu  

The extent of the bad blood between the ruling state government and the governor has almost peaked. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) submitted a memorandum on November 9 to the President of India, Droupadi Murmu calling for the removal of Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi.

The DMK, which is led by MK Stalin, and its alliance partners, have made grave accusations against Ravi, of violating his oath by stalling Bills and propagating “dangerous, divisive, religious rhetoric” with a “calculated intent” to incite hatred.

“R.N. Ravi has developed an unfortunate propensity to publicly profess his lack of faith in the secular ideals of this country and frequently engages in divisive rhetoric. This is an embarrassment to our Government which has utmost commitment to the secular ethos of this nation,” the memorandum stated.

Telangana 

In Telangana, the rift is seeing accusations from both ends. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan recently, in as many words, hinted at her “doubts” about her phone being tapped. Saying at a press conference on November 9: “I doubt (that) my phones are tapped. An undemocratic situation is there in the state, particularly in respecting the Governor. I want to clarify all those things.”

Earlier that day, officials of the state education department accused her of delaying the clearing of the Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, 2022. The state government also reportedly sent five other Bills which too are pending with the governor. 

In September, the Soundararajan accused the Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS) government of humiliating her. “The state will write history on how a woman governor was discriminated against. I was denied the governor’s address and the hoisting of the flag on Republic Day. Even now wherever I go, the protocol is not followed. The (governor’s) office should be respected,” she said.

At the same time, just like in the other states, the governor has been accused of not clearing files sent to her. The Telangana Assembly’s Deputy Speaker T. Padma Rao Goud was quoted as saying: “The government makes many decisions for the welfare of the people and development of the state but the files pertaining to these are being delayed. She is governor of Telangana and not governor of some other country like Pakistan”.

Soundararajan has also been tagged as “poking her nose” in Tamil Nadu, by giving her support to the governor there and stating that DMK’s top political family has Telugu roots. Before becoming Governor she was the Tamil Nadu State Unit President of the BJP.

Puducherry  

Way back in 2016, the L-G of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi’s rift with the elected union territory’s government, led by Congress Party’s V Narayanasamy was evident.

It began when the Former IPS officer, Bedi, suspended a Civil Services cadre official for posting a reportedly lewd video on one of the WhatsApp groups initiated by her to pass on instructions to officials. What followed were bureaucrats exiting the L-Gs WhatsApp groups.

The government then came out with a circular dated January 2, 2017, prohibiting officials from using social media for “interaction with seniors bypassing the administrative hierarchy and routine official channel”. The L-G however went on to cancel the circular as it “has been issued in contravention of guidelines, rules, and policies, etc., in force”.

Later, Congress MLAs complained to the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, calling Bedi out for her “rigidly autocratic, unethical, whimsical and dictatorial,” style of running the administration by “overlooking” an elected government. 

By February 2017, Bedi was removed and Telangana governor Soundararajan was given additional charge of the UT, which she holds to date.

Delhi  

One cannot think of friction between the governor and a state government and forget about the Capital. Being a Union Territory, Delhi has an L-G. Be it the first L-G Najeeb Jung, to have presided over when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government came to power or Anil Baijal who took over in 2016 the relations have been unflinchingly sour. In the case this time, L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena who was appointed on May 26 of this year has taken things to the next level, recommending a CBI probe, in late July, into the AAP-led Delhi government’s Excise Policy 2021-22.

Notably, not much later, the government decided to withdraw the new Excise Policy. Since then, the CBI has conducted multiple raids, including at Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s residence, with the agency naming him and 14 others in an FIR filed in the case for criminal conspiracy, falsification of account and undue advantage.

In the Supreme Court, the Arvind Kejriwal-Led government has accused the L-G’s office of derailing the governance of the national capital “in complete disregard of constitutional commitments to representative democracy and federalism”.

The two matters currently the AAP government of Delhi is fighting over in SC. One is over the control of bureaucrats, and the second is the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. The latter gives the centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi a prime role in the decision-making.

Punjab 

Further North, Punjab, also an AAP-ruled state has a rift in relations between the governor and the state government which came to power just this March. As has been seen in other states, the tussle here too sees the contention over the appointment of a Vice-chancellor to a university.

It was CM Bhagwant Mann who appointed Dr Satbir Singh Gosal as the vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University. This was opposed by the governor who said the appointment had been made without following UGC norms and the approval of the chancellor, which he is.  

But Mann instead accused the governor of “constantly interfering” in the functioning of his government. Purohit meanwhile asserted that he is the Constitutional head of the state and will keep performing his duty. This was October. In September one had also seen the governor asking the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretary to give details of the legislative business to be taken up in the Assembly session on September 27. 

Reacting to this, Mann had said in a tweet, “Governor/President consent before any session of Legislature is a formality. In 75 years, no President/Governor ever asked for a list of Legislative business before calling the session. Legislative business is decided by BAC (Business Advisory Council) and the speaker. Next Governor will ask for all speeches also to be approved by him. It’s too much.”

Maharashtra  

When Uddhav Thackeray who was then the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, had his party members rebel against him, this June, it was Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari who ordered a floor test.

The Udhhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena approached the Supreme Court, seeking to stay the floor test with the then chief whip Sunil Prabhu terming the Governors decision as illegal. This he said, pointing to Koshyari not taking into account the deputy speakers’ notice of disqualification notices to 16 of the 39 rebel MLAs.  

It was BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, now Deputy CM in the coalition government with the rebel faction led by Eknath Shinde, who had led the party delegation for the meeting with the Governor. 

West Bengal 

In recent times, perhaps the most contentious of relations between a governor and the state government has been in West Bengal. While the now-former governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, was made Vice President of the country in August, it is an example notable and one that cannot be missed.

Speaking of more recent events, In July of this year, Dhankhar had accused the ruling party of West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress of appeasement. Saying the biggest threat to democracy is appeasement, he appealed “to civil society and intelligentsia to speak about this serious problem of governance”.

Also in July, Dhankar returned the Bill passed in the Assembly in June, which made Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee the chancellor of state universities. The Bill, which would have seen the governor being replaced by the CM as chancellor, ironically needed the former’s assent before coming to citing, “incompleteness of compliance”.

Dhankar in fact, around the same time, announced the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor for Rabindra Bharati University (RBU).

Earlier this year in January Banerjee blocked Dhankhar on Twitter. She accused him of targeting and threatening her and government officials, leading her to make the decision. “I have been forced to block Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Twitter. I am sorry for this. Every day he was issuing tweets targeting and threatening me and other government officials as if we are his bonded labourers”, she said.

The government and the governor’s relations since he took office in 2019 have had far too many run-ins. Another more recent one was in June of 2021 when the CM called Dhankhar a “corrupt man”. 

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