The Telegraph
 
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Clock ticks on governors

New Delhi, May 14: Former Congress leaders occupying Raj Bhavans are anxious that May 16 could become their D-Day too.

Three of them were reported to have called on Sonia Gandhi and President Pranab Mukherjee in the past two days, expressing their desire to step down after exit polls indicated a rout for the Congress-led UPA.

Rajasthan’s Margaret Alva, Karnataka’s Hansraj Bharadwaj and Gujarat’s Kamla Beniwal were believed to have conveyed to Sonia that they would prefer to resign than be shown the door by the new government.

But sources said the Congress chief told the trio to wait till Friday afternoon, probably hoping for a fractured mandate that could extend the longevity of the governors.

Article 156(1) of the Constitution says that governors hold office at the pleasure of the President, which in practice implies the approval of Union cabinet or the Prime Minister.

The Telegraph has learnt that when some governors informally approached President Mukherjee, he advised them to hold on.

When the UPA came to power in 2004, the Manmohan Singh government had eased out some governors seen as having “RSS backgrounds”. These included Vishnu Kant Shastri (Uttar Pradesh), Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat), Babu Parmanand (Haryana) and Kidar Nath Sahani (Goa).

However, the UPA government did not urge then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to remove Rajasthan governor Madan Lal Khurana, a former BJP leader, or his Bihar counterpart Rama Jois, who had once been a counsel for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the Ayodhya dispute before the Supreme Court.

Then Karnataka governor T.N. Chaturvedi, too, had survived the regime change, apparently on account of his personal rapport with Manmohan.

The BJP had protested the removals then, terming them “unconstitutional” and “against the federal structure”.

Shivraj Patil, then home minister in the Manmohan cabinet and now Punjab governor, had sought to justify the removal of Mishra, Shastri and others on the ground that their conduct in the Raj Bhavans did not inspire confidence.

At an informal level, Patil had cited the stand taken by former Gujarat governor and ex-RSS activist Sunder Singh Bhandari during the 2002 riots. Bhandari had stoutly defended the Modi government and many in the Congress believed he had not apprised the Centre of the seriousness of the situation.

As Punjab governor now, Patil is among the incumbents facing an uncertain future if the NDA returns to power.

Other notable former Congress leaders serving as governors are Sheila Dikshit (Kerala), J.B Patnaik (Assam), D.Y. Patil (Bihar), Jagannath Pahadia (Haryana) Urmila Singh (Himachal), Syed Ahmed (Jharkhand), Ram Naresh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh) and S.C. Jamir (Odisha). The list also includes K. Rosaiah (Tamil Nadu), Devanand Konwar (Tripura), B.L Joshi (Uttar Pradesh) Aziz Qureshi (Uttarakhand) and Virendra Kataria (Puducherry).

Civil servants, retired IPS and intelligence officers are now governors in about a dozen states. Most of them — such as M.K. Narayanan (Bengal), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh) and K. Sankaranarayanan (Maharashtra) — are closely identified with the UPA.

POLITICAL ROSTER

Some governors who were with the Congress earlier

Margaret Alva (Rajasthan), H. Bharadwaj (Karnataka), Kamla Beniwal (Gujarat), Sheila Dikshit (Kerala), J.B. Patnaik (Assam), D.Y. Patil (Bihar), Jagannath Pahadia (Haryana), Urmila Singh (Himachal), Syed Ahmed (Jharkhand), Ram Naresh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh), S.C. Jamir (Odisha), K. Rosaiah (Tamil Nadu), Devanand Konwar (Tripura), B.L. Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), Aziz Qureshi (Uttarakhand) and Virendra Kataria (Puducherry)