We stop singing 'Abide with Me' at Beating Retreat, we abandon the British-built Parliament house, we re-name old roads, we govern more in Hindi than in English. Yet, English and the British seem to be staying “too much with us late and soon”, and even growing on us. I mean, the English language and British ways of governance.
More of our kids go to English schools these atmanirbhar days than did earlier, more people speak English and now, more of our governors govern like British governors did—that’s what Bhagwant Mann, Hemant Soren, M.K. Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, Arvind Kejriwal and K. Chandrasekhar Rao are saying, and what Mamata Banerjee used to say till that “nice gentleman” C.V. Ananda Bose came to stay in the Kolkata Raj Bhavan praising the “artistic chief minister of a poetic state”. Bongs, who perhaps love the Mallu for his surname, say that she sent him idlis, she promised to get him a Malayali cook, and presto! all the bad blood that was spilled in the house of Wellesley during the Jagdeep Dhankhar days was scrubbed clean and tiled over.
Bad blood continues to be spilled in several other Raj Bhavans, as it used to in the late 1930s when governments, voted by the people in the provinces under the Government of India Act 1935, found their bills and wills being vetoed by the viceroy’s governors. So much so, Jawaharlal Nehru called the arrangement “a machine with strong brakes but no engine”.
Mann and Soren, Stalin and Vijayan, Kejriwal and KCR say, governors in their states, much like those British governors, go by the letter of the statute and miss the democratic spirit that is enshrined in those letters that together make schematic sentences and statutory sense. The Constitution says that the CM shall be appointed by the governor, the other ministers shall be appointed on the advice of the CM, “and the ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the governor." Kerala’s Arif Khan took the words literally recently and threatened to withdraw the pleasure he had on a minister. Luckily, legal eagles gave him saner counsel that his pleasure is what the men in the council of ministers—who are elected on the pleasure of the people—say should be his pleasure.
Kejriwal is miffed that Lt-Governor V.K. Saxena is scuttling his welfare schemes as waste, interfering in the mayoral polls by nominating BJP members into the AAP-majority town councils, and dismissing a Supreme Court order as non-binding advice. Soren is sore that Governor Ramesh Bais has not only returned the files on rules formed by the state government related to formation of the tribal advisory council, but also ordered changes. KCR suspects that Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, former BJP president in Tamil Nadu, is poaching on his MLAs on behalf of the BJP in Telangana, and the governor suspects that KCR is tapping her phone.
The governors have much to say on their behalf. They are not rubber stamps, but vested with the power to caution the elected men when they go wrong. (Khan’s sacking of varsity vice-chancellors has been upheld by the court.) Very true, excellencies! You have a case. But what N. Ravi of Tamil Nadu did went beyond all norms of constitutional propriety. Not only did he change portions of the speech approved by the cabinet for his address to the assembly, but boycotted the national anthem and printed cards styling himself as governor of Tamizhagom!
Excellencies and Hon’ble CMs, stop this tomfoolery! Take a leaf out of the books of Ananda Bose and Mamata Banerjee, and behave like mature rulers of a 75-year-old democracy.