There is a jinx on Mizoram. Or rather, its picturesque Raj Bhavan. Why else would four people in a row opt out of its gubernatorial joys in a matter of weeks?
Situated in the heart of the state capital, Aizawl, the Raj Bhavan, more compact than its sprawling counterparts elsewhere in the region, was built in 1899. Since then, it has undergone structural changes, but continues to hold pride of place, surrounded by the secretariat and the legislative assembly on the northern side, Republic Veng (a civilian residential area) on the east and a small children’s park, maintained by the forest department, to the west. It is certainly not this panoramic campus that is making governor-designates resign in a hurry.
Shortly after the National Democratic Alliance came to power, there began a scramble for resignations by governors appointed during the United Progressive Alliance regime. B.L. Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh), M.K. Narayanan (West Bengal), B.V. Wanchoo (Goa), Ashwani Kumar (Nagaland), V. Purushothaman (Mizoram) and K. Sankaranarayanan (Maharashtra) set the trend, followed by Sheila Dikshit, who was appointed the governor of Kerala in March, just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and months after losing power in Delhi.
When Purushothaman left Aizawl, Kamla Beniwal, who had a running battle with Narendra Modi when he was the Gujarat chief minister, was shifted from the western state to Mizoram. After the NDA government came to power, she was sacked her for ‘misuse of office’ and Sankaranarayanan was chosen. He publicly criticized the decision. “[The president] has all the powers to transfer a governor, but then I thought it is not convenient... I decided not to go to Mizoram,” he announced.
The next name to do the rounds was that of Sheila Dikshit. First she met the Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, and the president, Pranab Mukherjee, in Delhi on hearing the plans to transfer her to Mizoram, and said she would resign if the government took such a decision. Last week, Dikshit resigned, claiming: “I did what my heart said I should do.”
While Mizoram awaits a new entrant to grace its Raj Bhavan, the Union minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, has hit out at the governors who refused to be transferred to that state. Hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, he has taken the matter to heart. In a recent interview, he said: “It is a very emotive issue for me. When a person is posted to the Northeast and he refuses to go there, that person loses the moral authority to speak on equality in the country. If people like governors and IAS and IPS officers will only choose serving in metropolitan and comfortable cities, then they don’t deserve to be in their position.” He added that such people should “apologize to the nation and to the people of the Northeast.”
Postings in the region are often considered a ‘punishment’ because of problems of militancy, lack of infrastructure and facilities as well as the difficult terrain. But Mizoram has been an “oasis of peace” since 1986. It has an airport nestled amid blue hills, a fairly decent road network and a friendly people. Its Congress government is headed by a veteran leader, Lal Thanhawla, not known for crossing swords with the occupant of the Raj Bhavan. The state is culturally resplendent and unlike others in the region, dissidence, horse-trading and the juggling of chief ministers (situations when the governor galvanizes into action) is almost non-existent.
With no visible reason thus far to not accept the gubernatorial post, one wonders if the two historic wooden cannons, installed in 1979 at the gate of the Raj Bhavan, hold any clue to the mystery of the reluctant governor.