Three governments in 6 months, and yet, the Governor doesn’t spend enough time in Tamil Nadu, the opposition says.

Missing in action Is Governor Vidyasagar Raos absence contributing to TNs political turmoil
news Politics Friday, June 16, 2017 - 17:14

Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is missing in action, allege Tamil Nadu’s opposition parties. As the four-month-old Edappadi Palaniswami-led government stares at yet another crisis, the state’s Governor remains absent.

It has been days since a sting operation by Times Now and Moon TV revealed that the Sasikala-led AIADMK faction may have paid money and gold to MLAs to vote in its favour in the February 18 trust vote, thereby scuttling the democratic process. But Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao, who holds the additional charge of Tamil Nadu, is yet to return to Chennai.

The DMK had hoped to raise the issue with the Governor but has been unable to do so, given his absence. “Normally Governors are rubber stamps. They come into play during the formation of governments or when it comes to volatility in numbers. Tamil Nadu has been volatile with the people seeing three governments in six months. In such a situation, his full-time presence is required,” points out DMK spokesperson A Saravanan.

He argues, “In light of the exposé, it is unfair that the Governor is inaccessible. We want to express our grievance. This is wasted time.”

Congress spokesperson Jothimani cites the Koovathur episode in February, where around 100 MLAs from the ruling AIADMK were packed off to Golden Bay Resorts by Sasikala’s camp ahead of the floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. “The part-time Governor has contributed to the crisis. The Koovathur episode happened because of his indecisiveness. He waited for political orders from his masters,” she hits out.

Following former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s resignation, and later rebellion, Governor Rao had delayed the swearing-in ceremony of AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala. And while he eventually chose to wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Disproportionate Assets case, many had accused him of playing politics at the time.

With Governor Rao remaining inaccessible even as the ‘MLAs for Sale’ sting operation continues to rock the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Jothimani alleges, “The BJP is using the Governor as a political tool. In general, the Centre is trying to insult Tamil Nadu through various means and policies – be it an assault on language and culture, or the farmers’ issue. The BJP is playing with Tamil Nadu’s future by keeping the Governor absent.”

The Congress leader also points to neighbouring Puducherry, where Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy have locked horns over a number of issues.  

Governance taking a hit? 

Vidyasagar Rao was appointed Maharashtra Governor in August 2014 and took over charge in Tamil Nadu in September 2016. So why does a state like Tamil Nadu with a population of 7.21 crore not have a Governor of its own?   

As argued by Tamil Nadu BJP Youth Wing Vice President SG Suryah in this piece for TNM in May, constitutionally, there is no such thing as a “full-time” or a “part-time” Governor. Article 153 of the Indian Constitution provides for one person to be the Governor of two or more states.

However, DMK’s Saravanan observes that the opposition is not calling Governor Vidyasagar Rao’s appointment as illegal but that his party is merely demanding that two sensitive states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have two separate Governors.

He also blames Governor Rao for delays in appointing Vice Chancellors at institutions like Anna University.  

“The Governor is Chancellor in a lot of Universities and he is not appointing VCs. This volatility is deliberately created by the BJP to make political gains in Tamil Nadu,” says Saravanan.

Following the High Court’s direction to the state government on the appointment of Vice Chancellors at Madurai Kamaraj University, University of Madras and Anna University, Governor Rao together with Higher Education Minister KP Anbalagan and other officials held interviews with candidates.

While the nearly two-year vacancy of Madurai Kamaraj University and the 15-month void at Madras University were filled on May 27 with the appointment of a VC, the Governor had expressed unhappiness with the candidates for Anna University, further delaying the appointment, reported The Hindu.   

In the past as well, Governor Rao has faced criticism for delaying the appointment of members of the State Human Rights Commission and the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women. While SG Suryah had observed that the “inefficiency of the state government” was being wrongly attributed to the Governor, Saravanan counters this stating, “If the Governor is here, files will move immediately. Why should governance take a hit because he is not here? Let’s not confuse what the state government is doing with having a full-time Governor.”