Pleasure is an intriguing word. It never appears more intriguing than when the constitutional provision regarding the pleasure of the president is applied to administrative matters. Even before the budget is on the table, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has decided to make its mark on governance by removing the governors of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa from their posts. It would seem that the Congress has objections to the four governors links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Predictably, the Bharatiya Janata Party is up in arms, with Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanding that the UPA should then make a statement that the RSS is bad. Either that, or apologize. The sacking has also sharpened the UPA-BJP conflict over tainted ministers, and threatens to generate further trouble during the budget presentation. The key is the pleasure of the president. According to the UPA, governors have to come and go according to this pleasure, and the present government has successfully advised the president as to what his pleasure is. The opposition is arguing that pleasure is not a value-free word, the removal of governors cannot be arbitrary, but must have reasonable ground.
What the hullabaloo obscures is the fundamental contradiction inherent in the governors post. Ideally, or constitutionally, the governor is non-partisan, a kind of wise watchdog whose main function is to take over if the state administration breaks down. But this also makes him a representative of the Centre. Inevitably, a governors is a political appointment. It may come as a reward for services rendered to a political party. Such an appointee is expected to look after the interests of the party that has appointed him. In this context, what the UPA is doing is not unexpected, since the role of the four governors during the National Democratic Alliances tenure was hardly non-partisan. At the same time, playing about with governors is really not the answer. It is necessary to return to basics and review the governors role in the polity.