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With 6 Governors set to retire, will Narendra Modi accommodate old guard there?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 - 5:40pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: Zee Research Group

The Modi government decision to peg the size of his council of ministers at a record low of 45 might have easily disappointed many aspirants who did not find berth in the government. But they need not lose hope since six high profile Governors are due to retire in the next six months.   

The states where a vacancy in Raj Bhawan is due this year include politically sensitive states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. Haryana, which is due for state assembly elections soon, too will see the Governor complete his tenure July end.       

The new government may likely use the opportunity to placate those who it could not accommodate in the Cabinet. There is likeliness of many of 70 plus leaders in the party.   

If past is any indication then it might be time soon for Governors appointed by the UPA government in several other states to call it a day! The Modi government, however, can abide by the apex court judgment that bars centre from arbitrarily dismissing any Governor on grounds of political ideology mismatch. 

The change of regime in 2004 witnessed removal of several Governors appointed by the Vajpayee government on the grounds of their political lineage. When the UPA government came to power in 2004, the Manmohan Singh government removed some governors seen as having “RSS backgrounds”. 

They were removed ahead of the completion of their term. These included Babu Parmanand (Haryana- he had about a year to go for retirement), Vishnu Kant Shastri (Uttar Pradesh-had about 15 months left), Kidar Nath Sahani (Goa- had completed just one year eight months) and Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat- had completed one year and a month). President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, following the advice of the Union Council of Ministers, directed the four Governors to demit office on July 2, 2004. The President's action was based on Article 156(1) of the Constitution, which specifies that the Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President. 

However, the UPA government did not urge the then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to remove either Rajasthan Governor Madan Lal Khurana, a BJP leader or his Bihar counterpart Rama Jois, who had once been a counsel for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the Ayodhya dispute before the Supreme Court. T.N. Chaturvedi (then the Karnataka governor) too survived the regime change. 

UPA’s removal of Governors before the expiry of their five-year tenure in office created a huge controversy and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) then protested the removals, terming them “unconstitutional” and “against the federal structure”.

The six incumbent Governors, majority of them being political appointees, and due to retire this year include Karnataka Governor, H.R. Bhardwaj who is to retire in June. The next in line are Jagannath Pahadia (Haryana-retires in July), B.L. Joshi (U.P- retires in July), Kamla Beniwal (Gujarat- retires in November) Janaki Ballabh Pattnaik (Assam- retires in December) and E. S. L. Narasimhan (Andhra Pradesh- retires in December).

But it would be interesting to watch for action on Governors who are obvious political appointees but have time left to retire anywhere between a year to four years or more. These include ex home minister Shivraj Patil (Punjab- became Governor on 22 January 2010), Margaret Alva (Rajasthan- became Governor on 12 May 2012), Sheila Dikshit (Kerala- became Governor on 11 March 2014), Urmila Singh (Himachal- became Governor on 25 January 2010) and Aziz Qureshi (became Governor of Uttarakhand on 15 May 2012).

Ms Dixit is unlikely to be touched if at all Modi government initiates large scale reshuffle of Governors across India irrespective of length of tenure. This is in view of the strategy likely to keep her away from Delhi at last until the time state assembly elections in Delhi are over.   

The Modi government would be though mindful of the 2010 Supreme Court judgment on the issue of removal of four Governors by the UPA regime. According to the five Judge bench of Supreme Court (2010), “A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him.”

The landmark decision of Supreme Court came after a PIL was filed in 2004 by the then BJP MP B P Singhal challenging the removal of Governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Odisha by the UPA 1 government.

The PIL had contended that the President could not have removed the Governors of four states on the advice of the Centre disregarding the Constitutional provision which fixed five-year term for them.




­State
 

Name

Previous political background

Took office
(tenure length)

Karnataka
­

H. R. Bhardwaj

Leader of the Indian National Congress(INC)

Former Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice

29 June 2009
(4 years, 330 days)

Haryana
 

Jagannath Pahadia

Leader of the Indian National Congress(INC)

Former Chief Minister of Rajasthan state from 6 June 1980 to 14 July 1981

27 July 2009
(4 years, 302 days)

 




Uttar Pradesh
 

Banwari Lal Joshi

Bureaucrat -State Police Service (IPS)

28 July 2009
(4 years, 301 days)

Gujarat
 

Kamla Beniwal

Leader Indian National Congress (INC)

Former State Revenue minister-Rajasthan

27 November 2009
(4 years, 179 days)

Assam
 

Janaki Ballabh Patnaik

Leader Indian National Congress (INC)

Former Chief Minister of Odisha from 1980 to 1989

11 December 2009
(4 years, 165 days)

Andhra Pradesh
 

E. S. L. Narasimhan

Bureaucrat -Indian Police Service (IPS)

28 December 2009
(4 years, 148 days)

 



Name

State

Took office
(tenure length)

Shivraj Patil

Punjab

22 January 2010(4 years, 124 days)

Urmila Singh

Himachal Pradesh

25 January 2010(4 years, 121 days)

Margaret Alva

Rajasthan

12 May 2012(2 years, 14 days)

Aziz Qureshi

Uttarakhand

15 May 2012(2 years, 11 days)

Sheila Dikshit

Kerala

11 March 2014(0 years, 76 days)

Exhibit 3: Legislature on term and removal of Governor
 Article 156 in the Constitution of India 1949
156. Term of office of Governor
(1) The Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President
(2) The Governor may, by writing under his hand addressed to the President, resign his office
(3) Subject to the foregoing provisions of this article, a Governor shall hold for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office
(4) Provided that a Governor shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term, continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office
Exhibit 4: Supreme Court’s judgment on the issue of removal of Governors 
According to the five Judge bench of Supreme Court (2010), “A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him.”


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