New Delhi: Former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has demanded the removal of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari from his post, describing him as an “Amazon parcel” sent by the central government to the state. He also urged all parties to unite in the cause to remove the governor.
Thackeray’s demand came Thursday in the wake of Koshyari’s remarks at a function last week about the Maratha warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji being an “icon of olden times” as opposed to “modern-day” ones like B.R. Ambedkar and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari.
But this is not the first time that Thackeray has had a run-in with Koshiyari. Tussles broke out several times between the two back when Uddhav was chief minister, a post he lost earlier this year after a faction of his party broke away.
Flare-ups between the state government and Raj Bhawan are not unique to Maharashtra. In fact, they almost seem to be the norm in states that are governed by parties in opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the central government.
The governor, who is appointed by the President of India, is often seen to be a representative of the central government in such states. This perception grew even stronger when Jagdeep Dhankhar was sworn-in as Vice President of India earlier this year — his gubernatorial tenure in West Bengal had witnessed continuous feuding between the Raj Bhawan and the office of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Here’s a look at some of the most recent face-offs between non-BJP state governments and governors.
Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal vs V.K. Saxena
The fractious relationship between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the lieutenant governors (LGs) of the national capital have been widely reported. His relations with current LG, V.K. Saxena, hit a new low when the latter called for a CBI probe into the Delhi excise policy in July this year.
While Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has accused Saxena, who was appointed in May this year, of working on behalf of the BJP, Saxena has sought probes into and reports on various initiatives of Kejriwal’s government, including the power subsidy scheme and construction of classrooms.
Kejriwal’s relations with Saxena’s predecessors have also been troubled.
Tamil Nadu: M.K. Stalin vs R.N. Ravi
In Tamil Nadu, relations between the government and the Raj Bhawan have deteriorated to the point that the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its allies have demanded the removal of Governor R.N. Ravi.
A memorandum, signed by DMK leaders and sent to the Rashtrapati Bhawan earlier this month, listed a total of 20 bills which have not been signed by the governor after being passed by the assembly, including the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which empowers the state government to appoint the vice-chancellors of state universities.
Ravi, on his part, has questioned the government’s delay in handing last month’s Coimbatore blast case, which he described as a “terrorist attack”, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Kerala: Pinarayi Vijayan vs Arif Mohammed Khan
On 15 November, the area outside the Raj Bhawan in Thiruvananthapuram became the site of a protest by leaders of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. Their rallying cry: to abolish the post of governor altogether so as to reduce “interference”. The protest came after years of sniping between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the state government.
In December 2020, when agitations over the now-repealed farm laws brought in by the Modi government that year were raging across the country, Governor Khan had turned down the cabinet’s recommendation to call an assembly session to discuss the matter.
The same year, when the Kerala government moved the Supreme Court against the Union government’s Citizenship Amendment Act, the Kerala governor lashed out at the government for breaking protocol and sought a report on the matter.
Earlier this month, the Kerala cabinet issued an ordinance to remove the governor as chancellor of state universities, soon after Khan had asked the vice-chancellors of several universities to resign from their posts.
There have also been differences between the CM and the governor over the removal of senior bureaucrat K.R. Jyothilal, who had expressed disapproval over the appointment of BJP member Hari S. Kartha as additional personal assistant to the governor.
The governor also reportedly wrote to President Droupadi Murmu alleging he hadn’t been informed about the CM’s 10-day foreign tour in October.
Jharkhand: Hemant Soren vs Ramesh Bais
In the latest among a series of face-offs between Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Governor Ramesh Bais, the latter this month returned the Jharkhand Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2022, seeking reconsideration. The bill had been forwarded to Bais in August, after it was passed by the Jharkhand assembly.
The governor has also been sitting on the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) August recommendation on the disqualification of Soren as an MLA in connection with an illegal mining case. While Soren’s party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, has called Bias a “toolkit” of the BJP-led Union government, the CM himself has accused the governor of running a larger conspiracy against him.
Telangana: KCR vs Tamilisai Soundararajan
Sitting on bills is seen as a common way for governors to show their power. Five out of the six bills passed during the September session of the Telangana assembly had not been cleared by Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan as of 10 November.
Meanwhile, Soundararajan has leveled charges of being insulted and humiliated by the K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR)-led government. The governor claimed during a press conference that she felt her phones were being tapped.
Punjab: Bhagwant Mann vs Banwarilal Purohit
The Punjab AAP government’s relations with the governor have been strained almost since the Bhagwant Mann government took oath in March.
While there have been multiple spats over university appointments, the governor had also rejected the cabinet’s proposal in September to hold a special session to show the party’s strength in the assembly. Later the session was changed to a regular session before being approved by the governor.
Chhattisgarh: Bhupesh Baghel vs Anusuiya Uikey
In a letter to CM Baghel earlier this month, Governor Uikey asked him to provide details of steps taken by the state government to restore 32 per cent reservation for tribals in the state.
The letter followed a decision of the Chhattisgarh High Court capping overall reservations in the state to 50 per cent. This had prompted the state government to fall back on its earlier decision to up reservations for scheduled tribes in the state from 20 per cent to 32 per cent.
A year ago, Baghel had said the submission of a judicial commission report on the 2013 alleged Maoist attack in Jhiram Valley to the Governor was against the “established practice”, and claimed that such findings are handed over to the state government.
Earlier this year, the Chhattisgarh governor was also locked in a dispute with the state government over pending assent to six bills passed by the assembly.
Rajasthan: Ashok Gehlot vs Kalraj Mishra
Governor Kalraj Mishra’s had claimed earlier this year that he had always tried to maintain harmony with the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan. However, relations between the two have been tense more than once.
One such episode was when in 2020 Congress leader Sachin Pilot had rebelled against his party’s government. While Gehlot had called for a floor test in the assembly to prove his majority, the governor had twice rejected the cabinet’s proposals for a House session before allowing it, prompting the Congress to allege that he was under “pressure from above”.
Earlier this year, the state government had proposed the Rajasthan State Funded Universities Bill, which if it came into effect would empower the CM to appoint chancellors at state-funded universities, reducing the governor (so long the chancellor) to a “visitor”. It would also ensure that the governor has no say in the appointment of vice-chancellors to these universities.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)