Unhealthy precedent

The way the political crisis is handled in Tamil Nadu by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao leaves much to be desired. By citing one excuse or the other, he has, single-handedly, virtually paralysed the administrative mechanism in the state for over a week now. The Governor is the titular head of the state and an appointee of the Union Government.

He does not have the people’s mandate to decide on things the way he wants. What he can, and should, do is to follow the dictates of the Constitution and make things functional. Rather, Vidyasagar Rao seems to be more keen on complicating matters, and fishing in troubled waters — this, clearly at the behest of the Union Government or the political leadership at the Centre.

What cannot be ignored is the fact, at this juncture, that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was voted into power with overwhelming public support in May last, and the entire lot of legislators — barring four — have signed a letter in support of the party’s new general secretary VK Sasikala to be made the next chief minister. Her name was proposed by the present (caretaker) chief minister O Panneerselvam and the legislators voted in favour of Sasikala as the new CM.

This having been done, it is not for others to question her credentials. One who has the support of the majority of MLAs will have to be called to form the government. That, too, at the immediate opportunity. And to add to this, the AIADMK MLAs stood almost as one in backing Sasikala, whatever be the reason(s). All these happened openly.

There was no confusion until the matter reached the Governor. He chose to take the first flight from Coimbatore to exit the state in a huff and surface in Mumbai, where too he is the governor of Maharashtra.

He cooled his heels there for days. Clearly, he ran away from the scene at the bidding of the political leadership at the Centre, so as to drag matters further and give a window of opportunity to the BJP to fish in troubled waters and make political capital out of the situation.

It took a few days for the Governor to return to Chennai, and he is citing excuses to avoid ending the political impasse. This is giving more courage to caretaker CM O. Panneerselvam — a weakling — to go up to him and seek a withdrawal of the resignation that he had already submitted to the Governor. BJP’s hand is clearly seen behind this too.

What is important at this juncture is to bring the state back to political stability at the earliest. A governor should play a role to remove confusion and bring about more clarity to a muddled situation. Ch Vidyasagar Rao is doing exactly the opposite. What he is doing is a downright immoral and shameful act. The blame is essentially on the Centre, from where he is being instructed in handling the complicated political situation.

Former Tamil Nadu governor T Anjaiah and former Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan have said as much — that a governor acts at the behest of the Centre, and cannot act independently. So, this is a political game going on shamelessly but with grave adverse effects to the stability of governance in the state.

People expected of the BJP, which rules the Centre, to stabilise and strengthen institutions. The damage that the governor is inflicting on Tamil Nadu will not limit itself to that state. It will percolate down to other states, too, as and when a political crisis of a similar kind arises.

Then, what Vidyasagar Rao did in Tamil Nadu will be cited as a precedent, so as to perpetuate a wrong system on the political establishment across the country. This precedent could even be cited if and when a crisis of the kind occurs in future in Parliament too. Or, for that matter, in BJP ruled states when someone else holds the reins at New Delhi.

Governors should act absolutely according to the dictates of the Constitution and not as per their conscience. By fishing in troubled waters, governors would only bring down the image of the institution of governorship.

It is all our duty to keep certain matters above board and beyond the political interests of the ruling parties. National interests are paramount. The Governor should be doing a job to protect and promote such interests.

The “wait and watch” policy of the Tamil Nadu governor does not augur well for the institution of democracy. Sadly, he is setting an unhealthy precedent.

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