Recently there has been some controversy about Governors of various states.
The BJP following past precedents decided to change a majority of governors who were either prominent Congress leaders(Sheila Dixit) or people close to the Congress (M K Naraynan-W Bengal)
There have been many arguments stating that this is political vendetta and that the BJP –the harbinger of change should refrain from such things. Supporters of the BJP have pointed out how similar practices were adopted by the UPA as late as 2004. In fact favourable governors were used mostly by the Congress and briefly by the Janata Party to dismiss opposition led state governments regularly. Ironically Nehru supposedly India’s best democrat did the first such dismissal-Kerala the World’s first democratically elected communist government. Sometime back the Supreme Court made it extremely tough for Union governments to dismiss state governments. Thus though the NDA-1 government tried to dismiss the Lalu / Rabri led government but failed.
Thus now governors have become largely ceremonial posts but not bipartisan ones—they intermittently trouble opposition led state governments; prominent examples being H R Bharadwaj in Karanataka and Kamala Beniwal in Gujarat.
Frankly the most important role that the governor‘s post fulfills is the leeway to phase out prominent but unimportant senior leaders. Every party thus uses this post to placate senior leaders when they do not find favour as part of the cabinet. It’s a brilliant retirement plan.
And as with any retirement plan it comes with a retirement home. In Mumbai a lush green forested 50 acre estate on the sea face in prominent Malabar Hills.
In fact the governor gets not 1 or 2 houses S/he gets 4 Raj Bhawan! Including a summer residence in Mahabaleshwar!!! If you thought this was a peculiar thing in Maharashtra you are wrong this reflected across all Indian states. The tiny state of Goa too gives its first citizen a 50 acre residence and in line with the Goan spirit a private beach too.
Now everyone knows that Indian politicians and even bureaucrats get the best of facilities and stay at some amazing places. But whereas one can argue the appropriateness of providing each MP with a house in Lutyens, its no doubt that MPs are one of the most important stakeholders in our national democracy.
The Governors on the other hand do no such function. Their existence and operation in the last 66 years have been anything but democratic. People, who equate the post of governor with that of the President, forget that the President is elected whereas the Governor is not. The President is elected by the peoples representative thus at the least he tends to be an indirect choice of the people. How is it that the first citizen of say Tamil Nadu can be appointed by a government in Delhi which the people of Tamil Nadu may not have voted for. That the same first citizen can hinder the function of the very state government which the people of the state have elected is an aberration!
It’s my strong belief that post of governor be abolished immediately. What can we have in place of the governor—Do we need a mechanism to oversee a state government.
Well what if along with the President election the MPs and MLAs elect a board of Governors comprising 5 individuals (such that 3 would be nominations from the ruling coalition and 2 from the opposition). This board based in the capital can achieve the bare minimum oversight if needed. Internally these governors may split responsibilities of sates such as North West South East and Central. We need not provide palatial housing in home states. Whenever required one of them can travel to the state he is supposed to manage and stay in the myriad state guest houses.
The beauty of this plan is not just this abolishing but rather that we can now put those palaces to some good use. I suggest the government can transfer all properties and resultant rights to a Special Purpose Vehicle or holding company which can then enter into a couple of JVs with related brands like Taj, Oberoi etc with a 100 year lease for these properties. I am very sure the Ritz Carlton would love a sea cliff Malabar hill property to take on the old world charm of the Taj Palace. We would not be auctioning the family silver nor creating unmanageable mess like Hotel Ashoka/ Centaur.
We would get immediate cash flows into government coffers additionally based on how the agreements are structured we can also have a share of the profits. Not only will we earn money from this form of disinvestment but also save millions in the operational cost of governor posts.
The 1000s of security men and women will be freed up to guard important places and protect our trains, our people from terrorism. The bureaucrats and other public servants attached to the Governor’s office can be free to oversee development and governance activities across the country.
May be this can be one of the easy to achieve reforms for the Modi government. Yes it is very drastic very unexpected but then this government was not elected for Status Quo—