The Governorâ€™s role in the ongoing constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh underlines one thing: the political system, despite protective guidelines from the Supreme Court, is susceptible to manoeuvrings by vested interests who seek to undermine constitutional and democratic norms. The crisis in the northeastern state is apparently engineered by people and groups owing allegiance to the ruling party at the Centre. It has all the characteristics of an absurd drama in which the Opposition in the state, with the full knowledge and support of the central government, enacts to usurp power. It all started when 20 Congress MLAs left the ruling party to join hands with the BJP to unseat the government led by Nabam Tuki. However, steps taken by Governor JP Rajkhowa are diabolical in nature. Instead of following procedures set by the apex court in the 1994 SR Bommai case, the governor acted in a partisan manner. The Supreme Court, in the said case, had laid down guidelines which a governor must follow in such circumstances. When it appeared that the Congress government has lost majority, what the governor should have done is to ask CM Tuki to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly. Instead, Rajkhowa went ahead and convened the Assembly on 16 December. This raised another constitutional issue: whether the governor has the power to convene the Assembly without the advice of the council of ministers. He also directed the House to take up the motion to remove Speaker Nabam Rebia, first. All these moves underscore the governorâ€™s ulterior motives. Rajkhowa also cited an incident of â€˜cow slaughterâ€™ to prove that law and order had completely collapsed in the state.
All this brings us back to the earlier debate on the incongruity of having a post of governor in a federal setup. What constitutional purpose does it serve other than providing employment for aging politicians or retired but â€˜friendlyâ€™ bureaucrats and police officers? Several instances can be cited to prove how successive central governments have misused the office. No political parties have heeded to the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, which has laid out clear guidelines regarding appointment of governors. The manner in which the Modi government has removed and appointed governors after assuming power, speaks volumes about the â€˜objectivesâ€™ it seeks to achieve. Political parties must use the imbroglio in Arunachal Pradesh to discuss the role of governors and how the spirit of federalism can be advanced through them. Otherwise, the office will continue to be abused by the ruling dispensation at the Centre at regular intervals.