The coming days could see high political drama as the central government is considering replacing seven governors, who were appointed during Congress led UPA-II tenure, before their term comes to an end.
The resultant vacancies could help the BJP assuage disgruntled leaders like Lalji Tandon, Kailash Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Balram Das Tandon, KC Nath Tripathi and VK Malhotra who could not fight elections.
These include Kerala governor, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit; governor of Nagaland, Ashwani Kumar who was rewarded soon after his retirement as CBI director; West Bengal governor MK Narayanan, former NSA and IB director during UPA tenure; Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan, a former minister in Congress-led government in Kerala, Chhattisgarh governor Shekhar Dutt, former defence secretary during UPA-II; and UP governor BL Joshi, a former IPS officer and Congress loyalist.
But a five-judge bench judgment of the Supreme Court can come to their rescue if they want to continue till the end of their tenure.
The apex court judgement of May 7, 2010 given in the case of BP Singhal versus Union of India clearly says though the president can remove the governors any time without assigning any reason and without giving any reason to show cause, the power under Article 156 (1) cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.
A governor cannot be removed on grounds that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre.
The order says: "Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that change in government at the Centre is not a ground for removal of governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government."
The aggrieved governors, if they are able to demonstrate prima facie that their removal is arbitrary, malafide, capricious or whimsical, the court can call upon the Union government to disclose to the court the material upon which the president took the decision to sack them.
The judgment empowers a governor to call the shots and take legal recourse of limited judicial review that can put the central government in a fix.
Since the tenure of seven governors will get over by the end of this year and four more by January next year, the BJP still has a large room to accommodate several of its political leaders.
Guvs whose terms are coming to a close
JB Patnaik Assam (Assam) – December 10, 2014
Dr D Y Patil (Bihar) – November 26, 2014
Dr Kamala (Gujarat) – October 14, 2014
Jagannath Pahadia (Haryana) July 26, 2014
HR Bhardwaj (Karnataka) June 28, 2014
Margaret Alva (Rajasthan) August 5, 2014
Devanand Konwar (Tripura) June 28, 2014