The written word is imperceptibly modified by practice and precedents, especially when what is written is the Indian Constitution that envisaged a long reign of democracy stretching into an unknown future. In such a document, however meticulous and visionary, not everything can be spelt out, just as not everything can be envisioned. So when Article 158 (1) states that the governor of a state shall not be member of any of the Houses of Parliament or of any state assembly, or should any such member be appointed governor, he should vacate his seat before joining, it is assumed that a governor should not be an actively political person. Besides, the governorís functions detailed in the Constitution require an unbiased person in the chair. As practice has turned out, however, the governor above politics is a rare creature. He may be tied down to constitutional functions while in the chair, but his being governor at all is often a reward for long fidelity to a party in power.
Such is the situation that the impartiality of the governor is no longer within the horizon of expectation. Sheila Dikshit, who held the fort as Congress chief minister of Delhi for 15 years till she and her government were defeated by the Aam Aadmi Party, will now become the governor of Kerala. There can be no doubt as to Ms Dikshitís political colour, neither can her appointment be disguised as anything but reward for a faithful soldier who fought and brought honours to her party as long as she could. More ironic is the reason for the vacancy. The outgoing governor of Kerala, Nikhil Kumar, is giving up his position so that he can fight the Lok Sabha elections from Bihar as a Congress candidate. In a way, his action is the precise reverse of Article 158 (1). It is as though if the one is permitted its reverse is permissible too. Indian politicians are not especially innocent; hence there is no reason to think that the ambiguity in the governorís political stance is a result of confusion. Rather, the silent tussles introduced by the constitutional requirements of elected positions and appointed positions in the same governmental structure have been milked to the utmost in favour of ruling parties. The elected, in other words. Clearing up this haze of political alliances around governors cannot be all that difficult. But political will is obviously pulling the other way. Bias and loyalty are infinitely useful.