Should the Governors and elected Chief Ministers confront each other even at the time of facing a pandemic? Do we need activist Governors or are they mere ornamental and figureheads? Do we need the Governors at all or should the post be abolished? Once again there is a focus on the Governors and Chief Ministers with disturbing confrontations between the two constitutional offices.
It reached a peak last week with a number of Chief Ministers complaining to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his fourth virtual meeting on the Covid -19 strategy. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought the intervention of the Prime Minister alleging that Governors were interfering in state Government’s work and playing politics to hamper the fight against the corona crisis. There were other Chief Ministers as well who had a similar view.
This brings us to the question what is the role of the Governor? The Constitution empowers him or her to influence the decisions of an elected Government by giving the right “to be consulted, to warn and encourage”. Pertinently, the Sarkaria Commission had recommended that the Governor should be appointed in consultation with the State’s Chief Minister and secondly the five-year term of the Governor should not be disturbed except in rare circumstances.
Unfortunately the Governor’s role has been distorted as successive Central Governments from the time of Indira Gandhi had often used and abused the office of the Governors.
Indira Gandhi changed the rules of the game by making loyalty to her the sole merit. Now the appointment of the Governors has become more political.
What is needed today is harmony between the two constitutional posts and not figuring who is right and who is wrong. Both are expected to function with dignity and decorum. Both are expected to confine themselves to the role envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. Activist Governors and egoistic chief ministers are the last thing India needs. As Gopal Krishna Gandhi, himself a former Governor says in an article “a Chief Minister actuates a popular mandate, the Governor exercises that all pervasive moral influence, both together providing the people in their jurisdiction the assurance they are in secure and mutually composed, not conflicted hands.”