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Monday , December 28 , 2009
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Debate over ‘loyalty’ prize
Police detain CPI activists demanding the arrest of Tiwari in Hyderabad on Sunday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 27: The manner of N.D. Tiwari’s exit as Andhra Pradesh governor has started a debate in the Congress on whether out-of-work party veterans should be appointed to high constitutional offices only because they had remained “loyal”.

Tiwari, 86, a former Union minister and four-time chief minister, resigned on health grounds yesterday, a day after a Telugu TV channel had aired a report alleging a sex scandal in the Raj Bhavan.

“Opinion-makers will now start discussing the merits of appointing ex-bureaucrats and policemen instead of politicians, and our position might get indefensible,” a Congress official admitted.

The debate has arisen at a time the Centre wants to quickly appoint governors in Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and short-list names for five other states. Sources said the Prime Minister would start consultations with cabinet colleagues and Sonia Gandhi next week to complete the “top priority year-end job”.

The Centre’s urgency stems from the events in Andhra, where the Congress government looks shaky with the Telangana agitation prompting large-scale resignations by MLAs. Sources said that if things got out of hand, the Centre might be forced to consider President’s rule.

A government source suggested that the Centre had provided “some hint” of its thinking on the politician-versus-bureaucrat debate by assigning temporary charge of Andhra to Chhattisgarh governor E.S.L. Narasimhan. Many in the party had expected Karnataka governor and former Union minister H.R. Bharadwaj to get the additional charge.

Narasimhan is a former IPS officer from the Andhra cadre and retired as Intelligence Bureau chief. His background fitted in with the requirements of Chhattisgarh which, like Andhra, is fighting Maoist insurgency.

However, a cabinet minister from the Congress felt that Maoism was not the immediate challenge in Andhra. He said that given the sub-regional fissures, now widened by the Telangana controversy, a politician capable of feeding Delhi with independent inputs would be a more apt choice.

There had been a buzz about two senior Congress officials, one from Kerala and the other from Madhya Pradesh, being considered for the Andhra governor’s job. A general secretary, however, rejected the idea saying: “At least four or five ministers are doubling as office-bearers. We can’t spare full-time office-bearers as governors. Like it or not, the government and the party will have to shortlist those who are not active.”

Bengal, now being looked after by Bihar governor Devananda Konwar, is unlikely to get a “Left-baiter” as the new governor, sources said.

“We have sounded out Mamata Banerjee on this. It was made clear to her that the candidate would have to be acceptable to the Left, though she was assured that her opinion would be considered,” a minister said.

Other states where the governor’s tenure has ended or is about to end include Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa.

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