March 13: The Ranchi Raj Bhavan has unwittingly shredded a gag that had held in check a question all parties wanted to ask but would not: do we need governors'
Nitish Kumar raised the question today, calling for a national debate on the role of governors in the wake of the Jharkhand upheaval that at one point threatened to pit the legislature against the judiciary.
'Governor has become a roadblock to proper functioning of democratically elected governments. It will be better if we do away with the post,' the Janata Dal (United) leader and BJP ally said in Patna.
'Relevance of governors, including the desirability of doing away with the post, should be debated,' he added, without commenting on the fact that when his alliance was in power, it also packed Raj Bhavans with loyalists.
All parties agree in private that the role of governors needs to be redefined. But once in power, no one has resisted the temptation to misuse Raj Bhavans ' the main reason why such debates have largely remained academic.
The BJP, too, called for a debate on a governor's appointment, role, functions and powers, though the party did not go to Nitish's extent and suggest that the post be abolished.
'The entire gamut of appointment and tenure has to be prescribed,' former BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Chennai. 'Otherwise, the governors will go on doing like this and deal a mortal blow to democracy.'
'It (the debate) has become all the more important and urgent in view of the murky things that happened in Goa and Jharkhand,' he added.
Jharkhand governor Syed Sibtey Razi and his Goa counterpart, S.C. Jamir, have been at the centre of a controversy after they invited coalitions that had the Congress as a partner.
'Governors tend to act as agents of the party in power at the Centre and often become a hindrance in the functioning of democracy,' Nitish said.
Ironically, Nitish himself was the beneficiary of a questionable decision by a Bihar governor in 2000 when he was sworn in at the helm of a government that lasted only a few days.
Nilotpal Basu, the Rajya Sabha MP of the CPM, told The Telegraph in Delhi that 'we have no problem with a debate on governors' role'.
'In fact, we have asked for a comprehensive discussion on the issue,' he added. Basu had on Friday called for a 'public debate on the separation of powers of different state organs', while pressing for a presidential reference on the Supreme Court's order on the Jharkhand floor test.
Naidu said the Congress-led Centre should take a proactive role. 'The BJP can definitely start a debate, but only the ruling party can evolve a consensus. The BJP is willing to join hands for evolving it.'
But the Congress is not expected to entertain any proposal to abolish the governor's post, not the least because it is often seen as the party which has benefited the most from friendly Raj Bhavans.
The Congress, which insists that a strong Centre is one of the key factors that hold the country together, feels a governor is a representative Delhi can bank on when all other arms of governance collapse.