Politicisation of Guv’s office

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/16/2020 10:48:21 AM

Continued politicisation of the Governor’s office does not go down well with the oath of office under Indian Constitution

The already strained relations between the Governor and the chief minister have just turned worse in Maharashtra, the worst hit state in the country by the on-going Coronavirus. Topping the list worst affected regions in India, the political scenario has made it further complicated with a missive from the Raj Bhawan to the chief minister on Unlockdown 5.0 issue. On Monday, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari stoked another controversy after he wrote an open letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray taunting him for his decision to keep the religious places closed after another move to reopen more places and commercial establishments has been announced by the central government. The Governor has already turned Raj Bhawan into a hub of controversy with a series of controversial decisions since November last year over the formation of the government and holding swearing-in ceremony in the early hours of the morning which did not survive for long. “The religious places in other parts of the country have been open for nearly three months and there are no reports of a surge in Corona cases,” Koshyari wrote. Having transgressed into the executive’s domain, the Governor went further. “Have you suddenly turned secular yourself, the term you hated,” he asked Thackeray. But it’s Koshyari who needs to answer: Does the tone and content of his letter behove a constitutional functionary? Does he remember the oath of office administered to him when he took over the gubernatorial assignment. It is unfortunate that such controversies are stoked time and again by the occupant in the Raj Bhawan. Such actions invoking religious sentiments not only undermines the Indian Constitution but also the democratic values of the country, which continues to treat every religious as equal. Since June, the Unlockdown Guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs have allowed state governments flexibility in deciding the resumption of several activities, including opening places of worship. It was only last month that the Maharashtra government invoked this discretionary provision when it informed the Bombay High Court that reopening religious places, even with safety guidelines, was not a practical solution. It cited reports of breach of safety protocols during the recent celebrations of Ganesh Utsav. The state government was responding to a petition filed by a Mumbai-based NGO. Since then, the demand to reopen religious places in Maharashtra has grown louder, with the main Opposition party, the BJP, leading a state-wide agitation. This is a matter where decision-making must be guided by sound administrative protocols and scientific expertise. That the Governor enclosed in his letter three representations, reportedly from BJP office-bearers, invites serious questions about the continuing politicisation of a high office.
Bhagat Singh Koshyari has been an RSS and BJP activist, and his earlier avatar arguably looms large over Monday’s letter to the chief minister. It is in the best interests of the Indian Constitution that Maharashtra Governor should be reminded of the document he swore allegiance to when he took oath of office on September 5, 2019. Enshrined in its “Preamble” in a clear manner is a word he might discard as a Hindutva follower, but one that propriety demands he accord due respect to - Secularism. Perhaps the Governor should rewrite his letter to the chief minister, or be persuaded to do so keeping in mind the document, he swore by and the conventions that a Governor has to act on the aid and advice of the state cabinet and not go by his personal whims and fancies.

 

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