Are we surprised anymore with the uneasy strain almost bordering on animosity in the relationships between the governors and the elected governments in opposition-ruled states? Do we see some predictability in how the governors are likely to react to political crises in these states? Though Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka are fresh in our memory, Goa and a few others fading away, these are not new phenomena. The party who is crying foul now had done pretty much the same when they were in power at the Centre for decades.
The Indian electorate, frustrated with the antics of a party that had ruled India for long, hoped for clean and value-based politics when they returned a new leadership to power six years ago.
Governors and Lt Governors of Indian states and UTs with President Ram Nath Kovind ahead of the Governors' Conference, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in November 2019. (File photo: PIB)
However, by now, the myth is broken and the promises are passé. The two leading political parties in our country seem like two sides of the same coin. They never meet; in fact, they compulsively oppose each other at all times, but demonstrate similar traits. In their quest for power and the obsession to stay with it, they look like mirror images of each other.
One may well argue that since a political party’s goal is to rise to power to ‘serve the people’, what’s wrong in doing what it takes to achieve this goal? It is, after all, a zero-sum game in the long run. In another time and place, a new soap opera like the latest in Rajasthan, and the recent sideshow in Maharashtra, will be played out again with the roles reversed. The party spokespersons shall defend their diametrically opposite positions with equally forceful articulation, without a trace of embarrassment on their faces. And, we shall watch them yet again – amused, helpless and frustrated.
The governors are supposed to rise above their yesteryears' affiliations and loyalties to deliver their duties as the custodians of our Constitution. But how practical is this when a career politician takes this oath? Can one suddenly detach oneself from lifelong beliefs and commitments? Can one erase from memory all the favours, blessings and support received over decades? If I owe every bit of my career to someone, how equitable can I be in taking critical decisions when that someone is directly involved?
The crux of the problem lies over here. The process of appointing the governors needs an urgent review. Over the years, it has deteriorated to a level beyond anything that the architects of our Constitution could have imagined. For a start, we should not appoint career politicians and bureaucrats to these august positions. No one with lifelong baggage of one ideology or the other should be asked to take such responsibilities. And, the process should not leave any scope for senior public servants to perform their official duties under the lure of such desirable post-retirement rehabilitations. Else, we land up asking too much from an individual.
One of the first things a new government at the Centre does is to change the governors appointed by the previous government. This essentially means putting their own people in these posts. It must stop.
The national political parties should sit together and decide on a protocol to appoint respected and independent individuals from the civic society to these positions on a non-partisan basis. We are blessed with many such luminaries in our rich social order. They should then be trusted to complete their terms irrespective of the political dispensation at the Centre. Such an agreement among all the major parties will benefit everyone. Let’s not forget: today’s ruling block may sit in the opposition tomorrow, just as the current opposition sat on the other side not too long ago.
Else, a day is not far when the current facades will disappear and the governor’s office shall become an explicit extension of the ruling party machinery. No political party shall be a winner in this internecine game. After all, what goes around, comes around.