Within a few hours of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu launching a Twitter war against Governor ESL Narasimhan, he found a platform in New Delhi to step up his tirade in league with the other “victims of gubernatorial excesses” ahead of the Niti Aayog meeting.
The sit-in being staged by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal against his “intruding” union territory Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal comes in handy for Naidu and his counterparts from West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala to find camaraderie in their crusade against Governors. Lending strength to their grievance, all the four CMs were denied permission to visit the protesting Kejriwal at Raj Nivas, the official residence of the Lt Governor.
To understand Naidu’s outburst against his state Governor, one needs to look back at history, into the beginnings of the TDP.
TDP’s tussle with Governors
The TDP was born in 1982 out of the Centre’s increasing authoritarianism over states. The party waged a battle headed by its patriarch and matinee idol NT Rama Rao against the dismissal of his 20-month-old government in 1984 by then Governor Thakur Ram Lal. The elected government was restored after a massive movement that shook the powers-that-be in the national capital. The TDP was also forced to build a strong case for scrapping the Governor post, which in its perception was just an agent of the party in power at the Centre working against opposition-ruled states.
The Congress, which the TDP viewed as instrumental in using Governors as a weapon against states, no longer has monopoly over the country’s polity now. In fact, the TDP, led by NTR and his successor N Chandrababu Naidu, played change agents in breaking the Congress monopoly and installing non-Congress governments at the Centre. With this, the TDP had to put its demand of scrapping Governors on the backburner until now when the BJP, under the stewardship of Narendra Modi, is emulating the Congress in employing the institution of Governors against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Why is Naidu targetting ESL Narasimhan?
ESL Narasimhan, who retired as a senior IPS officer with a high-profile stint as Director General of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), was appointed Governor of undivided Andhra Pradesh during the Congress regime in 2009. Surprisingly, he is one of the three Governors who survived after the Narendra Modi government came into power. Even as 26 out of 29 states and seven union territories had their Governors replaced with new faces as a choice of the ruling party, Narasimhan has remained in his post for the last nine years.
Narasimhan took over the gubernatorial office when the undivided state was on the boil with the separate Telangana movement. Later, he was also appointed Governor of the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh with an additional charge.
‘Ram Lal in the making’
Naidu has been suspecting Narasimhan to be a ‘Ram Lal in the making’ ever since he (Naidu) was implicated in the vote-for-cash scam by the Telangana government. Quoting section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, 2014, Naidu quite often accuses the Governor of failing to exercise his powers to ensure the safety of people of Andhra origin in Hyderabad, the combined capital of the twin states.
The chasm widened after Naidu parted ways with the NDA government. Narasimhan’s latest meeting with the Prime Minister and Home Minister Rajnath Singh a few days ago raised the TDP’s hackles again in the wake of its suspicion over the plotting by the NDA government to destabilise the Naidu government.
To substantiate the charge, Naidu quite often quotes the Tamil Nadu experience where after the death of its Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao was accused of scuttling the prospects of VK Sasikala becoming Jayalalithaa’s successor to favour O Panneerselvam.
‘Victims of Governors’
As a matter of coincidence, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee trained her guns against her state Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, accusing him of intimidating and humiliating her in connection with a communal flare-up a couple of days before her Delhi visit. Tripathi, who was president of the Uttar Pradesh state BJP unit before moving into the gubernatorial office, is just acting as an agent of the Narendra Modi government at the centre, she alleged.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (S) might have lost the opportunity of forming the government because of the alleged bias by the state Governor Vajubhai Vala in favour of the BJP but for the timely intervention of the Supreme Court. Incidentally, Vala had served as the Assembly speaker and minister holding portfolios such as finance, revenue, labour and employment for a long time in his home state of Gujarat under the BJP rule.
The other southern state CM, Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala, too has his own of cup of woes with his state Governor P Sathasivam. The former Chief Justice of India, in a striking departure from established conventions, skipped portions critical of the NDA government at the Centre from his budget speech prepared by the state government after it was cleared by the cabinet.
Federal spirit under threat?
The show of unity by the CMs from opposition parties and outcry over the functioning of Governors brings under sharp focus the manner in which the persons with a known ruling party background are finding their way into gubernatorial offices during the NDA regime.
The BJP spiritedly pursued the agenda of cooperative federalism while in the opposition while exposing the erstwhile Congress-led UPA dispensation at the centre over how it used Governors as a weapon against opposition-ruled states.
“But it apparently failed to practise what it preached. The bias demonstrated by Governors in favour of the BJP in installing governments in hung Assemblies as it happened in Goa, Karnataka and Meghalaya lends credence to such a view,” observes Prof K Nageswar, a political analyst from Hyderabad.
Dr BR Ambedkar, the man behind the Indian Constitution, wished the institution of Governor to be a true representative of the Constitution. That remains an issue to be debated.