The rising incidents of usage of Governor’s office to disrupt or undermine the duly elected state governments, hint that the country may be heading towards a federalism. The constitution of India does empower the Governor’s office with certain powers such as reserving a bill for the President’s consideration, and seeking information about the state proceedings from the chief minister. The real role of the Governor comes to play when an emergency is called in any state, where the governor takes over the reign of the state. This might happen when the government had lost a confidence vote in the assembly till the next elected government was formed. However, the concept of having a Governor in states is a colonial concept in the first place. After Independence, the decision of making the post of Governor in states must have been a way of the then union government to check the activities of the elected government. There are instances when the state and union government might not agree upon something, it is then that the Governor’s office acts as the backdoor for the union government to put the state government in check.
In the recent past there have been many such incidents where the Governor has interfered in state affairs. In Kerala, the Governor rejected the Chief Minister’s request to hold a special session on December 23, which later he accepted after the government came back with an amended request. Similarly, his Rajasthan counterpart denied holding a special session in July 2020. In West Bengal, the governor functions largely as a political opposition while Delhi’s episode with its LG is known to all. One of the finest politicians and former Prime Minister Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once lightly mentioned Governor to be like the ‘spare tyre’ for a state which comes at work during the absence of an elected government. Late Vajpayee was correct in the essence of the fact, as the governor does act as a backup government. But in democracy the Governor’s office must not be interfering in state affairs, even much so when the elected government is in place. In Assam it was seen that the Governor met with the Chief Secretary and other officials to take stock of the Covid scenario of the state. This act of the Governor undermines the Chief Minister’s office who is the elected leader of the state. Moreover, the Chief Minister and the Health Minister have been visiting various places of the state to monitor the covid situation, and hence they would have been more apt to be discussing the scenario. If one goes by the constitutional procedures, the Governor must have summoned the Chief Minister to gather information and discuss regarding the pandemic.
But it’s not only the BJP led NDA union government abusing the Governor’s office to its advantage. There have been similar incidents right from the 1950s and federalism has been growing ever since. Such misuse of a colonial unelected office does undermine the democratic processes at times. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister used this very office to dismiss the Communist government in Kerala in 1959 even after fighting with the Congress electorally. However, such abuse of power makes it difficult for the elected government to function at its full potential. Additionally, some states in the country are very large and if their democratic voice is not allowed full space it might result in hampering its developmental activities. Nevertheless, keeping in mind that Narendra Modi rose to national prominence riding piggyback on his stint as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the BJP might also be using the office to check on the rise of any such leader from the non-BJP ruled states. Whatever be its reason, the union government must let the democratic process continue unhindered and let the elected governments work freely for its respective states.