MK Narayanan in Calcutta on Wednesday. Picture by Bhubaneswarananda Halder
New Delhi, June 18: Home minister Rajnath Singh has been “counselled” to “ease off” on the virtual quit notices served on some UPA governors after the “point” was made that the Centre wanted the Raj Bhavan incumbents to step down on their own, government and BJP sources said today.
In the next few days, the sources said, they expected at least seven governors to resign of their own volition.
However, so far, only B.L. Joshi of Uttar Pradesh has quit and M.K. Narayanan of Bengal has hinted that an element of uncertainty surrounds his tenure. “I have not yet resigned,” Narayanan said today in Calcutta.
Asked if he was mulling handing in his resignation after being sounded out by the Union home ministry, Narayanan said: “I’m not obliged to tell you what I’ll do.”
Raj Bhavan sources said the governor has instructed his secretariat to not take new appointments from the month of July, though his term officially ends on January 24 next year.
According to the sources, Narayanan has not issued any instructions regarding the existing appointments till June 30, which had been fixed weeks ago.
Another UPA appointee, K. Sankaranarayanan of Maharashtra, dug in his heels, confirming that Union home secretary Anil Goswami spoke to him twice. But the governor appeared to link any exit to a written order from the Centre, possibly keeping in mind a Supreme Court order against removal on political or ideological grounds.
“Union home secretary Anil Goswami called me twice last week (asking to demit office). I didn’t reply anything... the governor’s post is a constitutional post. He is appointed by the President. No responsible person has asked me anything in writing to (be) relieved of the postů. If an appropriate decision-making authority asks me (to quit), I will definitely think over it,” Sankaranarayanan told a Malayalam TV channel.
Sankaranarayanan did not specifically say what the home secretary told him. Sources in Delhi suggested that Goswami might have dropped loud hints — such as asking whether they planned to quit — but they were not sure if he explicitly asked the governors to resign.
Asked if written orders would be served in case the incumbents declined to quit, a government source said: “We will see. Every counter-strategy cannot be revealed prematurely.”
However, it is learnt that the Centre is not looking at a “wholesale” ouster.
High on the list are the governors of the states that rank high on the BJP’s political agenda as regions where it would either like to consolidate its gains or expand in the future. Such states include Uttar Pradesh and Bengal.
On the flip side, there was not a murmur over K. Rosaiah, the Tamil Nadu governor who reportedly shares a comfortable rapport with chief minister Jayalalithaa, notwithstanding his Congress pedigree.
Likewise, E.S.L. Narasimhan, the Andhra governor who is also temporarily in charge of Telangana, was told by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that the statehood transition took place smoothly — an indication that the former Intelligence Bureau chief could stay put.
It is learnt that Rajnath, whose prime interest lies in consolidating his political turf in Uttar Pradesh, was keen on the resignation of Joshi.
Not only did Joshi have another five years in office, he is considered close to the Gandhis. “From this, we can only deduce that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi may leave the decision to the conscience of the individuals instead of themselves intervening,” a minister said.
Asked why the government wanted the governors out despite initial signals against change, the minister said: “It was decided early on that after Parliament (the first session of the new government) was over, the exercise for replacing the governors would begin.”
Rajnath, the sources said, is expected to push a governor of his choice in Uttar Pradesh, keeping the state’s current political volatility in perspective.
Rajnath may also use potential vacancies in Raj Bhavans elsewhere to shelter Uttar Pradesh leaders past their “shelf life”, the sources said. “If they remain in Uttar Pradesh, they can cause pinpricks,” a source said. The leaders include Lalji Tandon, Kalyan Singh, Kesri Nath Tripathi and Om Prakash Singh who are counted among Rajnath’s rivals.
Home secretary Goswami is believed to have called up at least two governors and asked through broad hints what their plans were.
Narayanan has apparently told confidants that while he had not been served a quit notice, Delhi would “not be unhappy” if he resigned
Given the BJP’s hope that Bengal was its sunrise state, sources said its gubernatorial choice would reflect its political “aspirations and intentions”.
Some BJP sources cited other reasons for the home ministry’s haste. The party feels that Sheila Dikshit’s appointment in Kerala was hastened at the fag end of the UPA’s term to shield her from probes into alleged irregularities. The governors of Bengal and Goa may have to be quizzed as witnesses in the VVIP helicopter deal probe, they said.