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LINGERING ON

Dignity is a bit of a casualty when respected people in honourable chairs seem reluctant to take hints. But governors in India are not great hint-takers, as is demonstrated by the fact that of all the seven governors appointed under the United Progressive Alliance regime that the new dispensation in Delhi would like to bid farewell to, only the governor of Uttar Pradesh has resigned. But the nudge-and-hint strategy for governors and other political appointees every time there is a regime change is completely unnecessary. Not everything is written in law. People do not stand up to offer their seats to an old or weak person because it is written down in law and there is a penalty for not doing so. It is just what is done, something everyone knows to be right and proper. Propriety, the sense of decorum, convention and usage are the elusive filaments that hold society together within a feeling of rightness. Political morality, one aspect of that same sense of rightness, demands that political appointments under a particular regime end with the departure of that regime. In the United States of America, for example, all political appointees resign automatically when the term of one government ends. It is just the practice. This practice is so ‘normal’, so much an ordinary part of the everyday functioning of government, that the resignations take place even if the same government comes back to power, as happened in the case of Barack Obama’s second term. The same people may be appointed again, but that is a different story.

What is it about Indians and the chairs they grace? Or is it the typical legalistic mindset that looks for written provisions and sections before surrendering a position, any position? The Congress is making cautionary noises about the Supreme Court statement that no governor can be removed on the basis of his ideology. This statement was actually directed towards the Congress: it removed governors from the previous regime upon coming into power — but how is it relevant? The governors are expected to resign. True, governors are supposed to be above political bias, although real life is a little more complicated than that. But that is irrelevant too. The important thing is the dignity and honour of the position. And this should urge them even more firmly towards propriety, towards a no-fuss surrendering of their position whenever a new government, of the old colour or new, comes into power.