Malik’s outbursts against the Centre have become a huge concern and crisis for the Central government and the BJP.
The echo of the thunder of the political clouds in Meghalaya has shocked the whole country, including at the centre of power in Delhi. This is the first time when any Governor of a state, who is holding a constitutional post, has strongly opposed the policies and steps of his own Central government and put serious allegations of corruption against a Chief Minister of the ruling party. Satya Pal Malik, who has been an active politician for decades, after serving as Governor in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Goa, has alleged that he was transferred to Meghalaya because he complained about the corruption of the BJP government of Goa to the Central government. Not only this, but Mr Malik has also supported the ongoing movement against the new agricultural laws of the Central government, calling them completely unfair. After so many serious allegations, it is natural that questions like “How appropriate is it for a leader to stay or keep this post who raises his voice against his own government?”, will arise.
Whenever there is a change of government at the Centre, differences with the governors appointed in the past and their removal, and conflicts between the governors and the chief ministers have been very common since the 1970s. From a constitutional point of view, whenever there is any crisis or political instability in the state, the Governor plays an important role in the coordination and communication between the Central and the state governments. He is considered the guardian of the state and government. Not only this, according to the rules, it is said that the members of the cabinet are appointed at the discretion of the President and the governor in the state holds the power to dismiss a minister on serious grounds. Keeping an eye on the working of the state government, they regularly send their reports and advice to the Centre.
Satya Pal Malik as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir had initiated action by digging out the files of corruption and irregularities from the tenure of former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar and Farooq Abdullah. At the same time, he also gave information of an industrialist who had tried bribing him with crores of rupees and had released the files related to the economic interests of a person associated with RRS to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and after being advised not to do this work by Modi, those files were rejected. He also gave information to the Centre about the possibility of corruption in some decisions of the Government of Goa. Even after this, the BJP and the Centre did not take action against the Chief Minister, and to prevent a direct confrontation in the state, the government transferred Malik to Meghalaya. The governor is now publicly expressing his concerns against the government. This has become a huge concern and crisis-like situation for the Central government and the BJP which is busy campaigning for the upcoming elections. This issue has also turned out to be a major political weapon for Congress and other Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations.
With this ongoing controversy, once again the need for serious consideration of the responsibilities and roles of the Governor is coming to the fore. The Sarkaria Commission constituted on the relations between the Central and state governments, and later, the Constitution Review Commission had made recommendations of keeping a person in the post of Governor who is separate from any party’s politics. But the governments of different parties at the Centre and the Parliament never accepted this recommendation.
It is generally said that as soon as the person is appointed as a President or Vice President or Governor in the office, the person becomes neutral and independent of any political party sentiment and interests. But this is not what we have experienced in reality. Satya Pal Malik is not the first one; former Karnataka Governor Hansraj Bhardwaj had publicly stated that he has been a Congressman all his life and cannot remain a mute spectator to the issue of public interest and corruption. There was BJP government in the state during his tenure. West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar is continuously opening a front against Mamata Banerjee’s government. By just sitting on a chair, can a person’s thoughts, heart and mind change miraculously overnight? On the other hand, if a senior officer or army officer who has been in government service is given the post of Governor, he will not have any bias in favour of the ruling Central government. Every government wants to appoint a person of its own choice. Vishwanath Pratap Singh had become the Prime Minister after a rebellion from his Congress party, but he also wanted to change the governors of 18 states. So should only a former judge or a completely non-political person be made the governor? But then there can be even more crises and cases of differences and conflicts.
In this context, it would be appropriate to mention the decision and thoughts of the senior leader, freedom fighter, Shri Prakash, who became the governor after independence. Shri Prakashji, using his authority, had got the Congress government formed in the Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) despite not having a majority and had nominated C. Rajagopalachari as the Chief Minister. Rajagopalachari did not even contest in the election to the Legislative Assembly. He was the Chief Minister from 1952 to 1954 and then he himself resigned. Later, Shri Prakash was also the Governor of Bombay State (now Maharashtra and Gujarat) from 1956 to 1962. But he was so disappointed because of several controversies and had said: “It would be difficult for a respectable person to accept the office of Governor”. Therefore, the dangers of right and wrong use of unlimited power under certain provisions of the constitution by the governor remain equal.
Many times, there are fears that by imposing President’s rule to benefit the ruling party at the Centre or to rule for a few months, there is an attempt to destabilize the state governments and take confrontation with them. In this background, sooner or later, the Parliament and the Supreme Court will have to reconsider the old rules, laws, rights and responsibilities.
(The author is editorial director of ITV Network-India News and Aaj Samaj Dainik)