The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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War drums sound on governor sack

New Delhi, July 2: The stage was set today for the first big political confrontation between the new government and the Opposition with the sacking of the governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa.

Acting on the advice of the government, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam directed that “the four governors shall cease to hold office of their respective states”.

Vishnu Kant Shastri (Uttar Pradesh), Kailashpati Mishra (Gujarat), Babu Parmanand (Haryana) and Kidar Nath Sahni were removed from office after feelers sent to them to resign were ignored.

All four were appointed during the previous government’s tenure. The BJP called the action “gross constitutional impropriety” and vowed to oppose it at all available forums. It left the legal route open, too.

There was no word from the government, but the Congress said the governors’ continuation in office had become untenable after they started taking instructions from their political masters in the BJP.

“It is the Congress party’s view that the position of the (four) governors became untenable after they started taking instructions from the leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu. This necessitated the move to relieve them of their duty,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

The law minister in the Vajpayee government, Arun Jaitley, said: “The BJP believes that the action is a gross constitutional impropriety and violates the constitutional provisions which prescribes the tenure of a governor to be five years.”

Sharma, however, accused BJP leaders of indulging in the unconstitutional act of publicly instructing the governors against putting in their papers. In the advice followed by the government’s decision to dismiss them lie the seeds of a bruising conflict.

The BJP had stalled the new Parliament’s opening session with its protests against the presence of what it calls “tainted ministers” in the Manmohan Singh government. There were indications today that the protests might continue with a budget boycott. The sacking of governors will be one more reason for the Opposition to step up its attack on the government.

Jaitley said the dismissal of governors simply because they have a particular political background was unwarranted. If anyone were to be removed, “there should be cogent and compelling reasons for it”.

It has not been officially stated, but the governor quartet having Sangh backgrounds is believed to be a reason.

Sharma said that as representatives of the Centre with the duty of ensuring constitutional order in the state, governors could only take instructions from the President. The Constitution has, therefore, given the Centre the freedom to appoint its nominees as governors. “The President has inherent and explicit powers to appoint and recall governors.”

The NDA regime, too, had removed two governors appointed by previous governments on grounds that their conduct in office was improper.

Jaitley, however, said the BJP would contest the current decision. Asked if a legal response was possible, he replied: “All options are open. We will raise it before people and Parliament.”


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