The controversial actions of Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi have highlighted once again the contentious ties between governors and Opposition state governments. This has for long been a sticking point and was exploited mercilessly by earlier Congress governments at the Centre which dismissed legitimately elected governments at the drop of a hat at the behest of governors. Former CBI and Intelligence Bureau officer Ravi’s decision to omit three crucial paragraphs from the speech prepared by the State Government for his address to the Assembly amounted to overstepping his role as the constitutional and titular head of the state. The Governor’s remit is limited to reading out the speech prepared by the State Government, just as the President, in her customary address to the Budget session of Parliament, reads out the report card of the Union Government prepared by the Government itself. Any deviation from the text will result in a constitutional crisis. Fortunately most Presidents have adhered to the principle of non-interference in affairs of state. Why then are governors so intent on stirring the pot in Opposition-ruled states?
Earlier, career politicians were rarely appointed governors, but nowadays the trend is to appoint those with blatant political beliefs or former bureaucrats known to do the bidding of their political masters. Mr Ravi’s gratuitous pronouncements on Sanatan Dharma and his suggestion that Tamil Nadu be renamed Tamizhagam only made the DMK Government see red. His decision to omit paragraphs in his address relating to the Dravidian model of development prompted Chief Minister MK Stalin to move a resolution against his action, making the Governor walk out in a huff. The row did not end there, with the Governor issuing invitations for a Pongal get-together at the Raj Bhavan where the state was called Tamizhagam instead of Tamil Nadu. The letterhead bore the Central Government’s seal and not the State Government’s emblem.
The rift between the Governor and the DMK Government has been long drawn out with Mr Ravi sitting on a dozen bills cleared by the Assembly. He has not rejected them outright but has simply refused to take any action on them. DMK leaders shooting their mouths off against the Governor has only exacerbated matters. Relations between governors and elected governments have been tense in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The ugly row between the Centre’s representatives and chief ministers does not bode well for democracy.
An endorsement from Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has no doubt boosted Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s ambitions. Her reaction to Mr Sen’s remark that she has the ability to be the country’s Prime Minister is an eye-opener. Mr Sen’s advice is like an order, Ms Banerjee averred, indicating that she was more than ready for the role. However, before any such scenario can be envisaged, there has to be a measure of Opposition unity. The Trinamool may do well in Bengal, but it is unlikely to win seats in other states. The only Opposition party with a pan-India presence remains the Congress and it is highly improbable that the Grand Old Party will cede space to a regional outfit. Any Opposition formation will have to include the Congress, something the astute Nitish Kumar has realised. The overarching ambitions of regional satraps such as Ms Banerjee and Bharat Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhar Rao leader will remain just that. They can pose a threat to the BJP in their states, but they will be unable to take on the might of the saffron juggernaut in parliamentary polls. Therefore the BJP’s assertion that there is no vacancy for the Prime Minister’s post rings true despite the arrogance of the statement.
There has never been a greater need for Opposition unity than now, but that will need a great deal of statesmanship. Egos will have to be set aside and hard decisions taken for the greater good. The present Opposition set-up is riddled with contradictions and extreme wariness towards the Congress. The latter, despite Rahul Gandhi’s bid for unity in the form of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, is unlikely to give up its position as the principal Opposition party, notwithstanding its poor show at the hustings. A solution seems unlikely in the near future.