Let’s look at the beginning. In Kerala its Governor came under attack right from the beginning. The very first Governor of the State, the late B. Ramakrishna Rao for the first time in India, dismissed the democratically elected and the first Communist government in the state. The Congress Government at the Centre gave the signal, Governor Rao sent the report on the suggested lines and Kerala came under President’s rule. Without going into the merits to be fair, Rao had no option. Looking at the stand of the Congress leaders in Kerala, in fact a section of the state unit, and the fact that the party had inaugurated the dismissal of an elected government, one can only laugh at the demand for the recall of Governor Arif Mohammad Khan. The Congress should remember how they have dealt with Governors, when they were in power.
Whatever may be the constitutional position theoretically, Governors are representatives of the Centre in States for all practical purposes. Some erudite scholars may have a differing view, and may be fully justified. In reality, the situation is that the Governor has no option. Haven’t we seen the Raj Bhavan in full alert, burning the mid-night oil, in Mumbai recently?
Arrows have been freely flung at Raj Bhavan even earlier on innumerable occasions. It is normal for the aggrieved party to accuse the Governor of taking a partisan position and acting as a stooge of the Centre. This has happened on various occasions. Most national parties chose to do so, opposing some decisions of the Governor or accuse him of favouring or implementing the Centre’s decisions, intentions of which may or may not have been honourable. On most occasions, without the fear of being contradicted, such dismissals of the state governments were for petty political interests of the ruling government at the Centre. The presiding deity at the Raj Bhavan may not have any role in the decision.
If one looks at his political career, Governor Khan has been taking positions, rightly or wrongly, according to his conscience or in the interest of his political career. He opposed the Shah Bano judgment of the Supreme Court and forcefully pleaded for amending the relevant laws to provide subsistence allowance to Muslim women after divorce. When the Rajiv Government changed its decision on the matter, he parted company and moved out along with V P Singh. He hobnobbed with other political leaders and joined the BJP after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.
He was not a member of the RSS and so far no one has disputed his secular character, save a few academicians. He began well in the Raj Bhavan and the objective way he intervened in the affairs of a few Universities in Kerala, where misuse of authority did take place thanks to the political bosses, was noted. Many appreciated the intervention of the Governor with an intention to clean the Augean stables of some of the Universities in the state.
Some in Congress may have differences with Khan dating back to his quitting the party, reviving which may be rewarding these days. In Kerala, the groups in the Congress are as old as the formation of the state in 1956 and in some cases older than the formation of the State even! For some leaders the enemies within the party are deadlier than the political parties opposed to the Congress Party. Recently even the High Command could not reorganize the state unit of the party. The top leaders wanted a small committee to manage its affairs with a few essential office bearers. But then the grand old dissidents in the party came together to oppose the High Command and managed jumbo committees and a few dozen office bearers! Even on opposing the CAA and Citizenship Register, one section wanted to move together with the LDF while another vehemently opposed it, as it felt that such a united move would be politically advantageous to the Left!
One is not sure if the demand for the removal of the Governor also has some group interests in the game of one-upmanship.
Normally on such issues, after a few critical exchanges, the government and the leaders move on. In governance normally no sensible leader would like to keep on with them as festering wounds. No government or politics can get stuck on such issues, particularly, when the main issue is before the highest court of the land. Once the Supreme Court gives a verdict on the CAA and relevant issues, that is the final decision and everyone has to accept it. The opposition can fight its way and capture and try to amend these laws further. But political wisdom lies in awaiting the verdict of the Apex court while firmly opposing the planned laws relating to citizenship firmly but peacefully mobilizing secular masses.
The politically wise would continue with their duties and avoid further confrontation or airing of views to make matters worse. Avoiding the Republic Day At Home at Raj Bhavan on such an issue could have been avoided. After all, the differences are on issues and policies and nothing personal. It was responsible and decent on the part of Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, Speaker Sivaramakrishnan and Minister Kadakampally Surendran to attend the Republic Day reception at the Raj Bhavan. Running the administration through consensus is the best way to run a government. Differences are part of life but converting these into permanent confrontation is unwise.
True some of the statements of the Governor relating to the powers of the state legislature are unfortunate and could have been avoided. Surely the state assembly can pass a resolution. The assembly has its rights. But the state government cannot refuse to implement a central law. If states refuse to implement central laws, there would be anarchy. If the Governor expresses his views on the central laws he is perfectly within his rights. It would be difficult for a Governor in India to refuse to act upon the Centre’s directions on moral grounds. The only option for the Governor is to quit. But most of the Governors are political appointees and function as per the interests of the party they belong. Many do expect objective decisions from the Governors. But over a period of time Governors prefer to act in conformity with the thinking of their political party. Consequently some Raj Bhavans have become an extension of the political party to which the Governor belongs, unfortunately. That is an unfortunate fact in Indian politics. Arif Mohamed Khan, many expected, will not be a rubber stamp. Some of his actions and utterances have proved otherwise and that has disappointed many.
But an Assembly passing a resolution to recall a State Governor is carrying matters too far. In any case, the present laws are not the creation of the Governor. If one goes by the record of Khan, if he disagrees on some of the issues he may part company too. Political sagacity and wisdom demand to wait for the judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter and abide by the verdict. A move to recall the Governor would mean granting casual leave to decency and smack of political bankruptcy. Vitiating further the atmosphere is foolish, to say the least. A vast majority in the country may not agree with the CAA and NRC, but that does not justify resorting to anarchy and violence. All protests must be conducted within the norms of a civil society respecting the law.
The recent shrewd move of Arif Mohamed Khan to read the Governor’s address has created a few ripples in the state politics. CPIM has changed its attitudes towards the Governor and indirectly towards the BJP. The Congress and CPIM are distancing themselves after the recent camaraderie. Governor Khan has learnt politics in the best and worst political schools and can outwit our leaders easily, which he has proved by this act. Naturally now CPIM may not be party to a resolution to recall the Governor from the state. Congress too may have some rethinking in the changed circumstances as without the support of the Left, it cannot expect to introduce the resolution and get it passed. The Congress party in the state would be well advised to strengthen the party at the grass root level and reorganize itself on the basis of democratic election instead of the decade old practice of nomination by the High Command. Even the Central leadership is getting fed up with the septuagenarian and octogenarian leaders of the state, though the party is performing comparatively well in the elections.