The conception about the office of the governor is of defender of the constitution. Although appointment of governors is entirely the privilege of those who rule the Centre, this position, like that of the President, is premised on a personalilty above party politics. It is also true that governors' residences, axiomatically described as the last asylum of politicians, very often get turned into inner rooms for centre's political conspiracies. If this used to happen rarely in earlier times, now it would not be an overstatement to say that it has become a norm.
Governors in any of the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Goa, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have been playing politics forgetting their titular status. In Karnataka, governor Vajubhai Vala was responsible for degrading politics as much as the parties there were. In Maharashtra, the main actor in the drama of midnight murder of democracy was former RSS leader Bhagat Singh Koshyari, the governor there. When it comes to West Bengal and Delhi, governors Jagdeep Dhankar and Lt Governor Anil Baijal are playing the role of opposition leaders. And now Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, going by the recent controversial political interventions, also seems to be in an attempt to figure in that last.
What triggered the Indian History Congress' (IHC) inaugural function into a near pandemonium of protests was Khan's proclivity to express subservience to the central government. Even as the governor can express his disagreements duly observing the sanctity of the governor's position, he rushed to reincarnate himself in the garb of a BJP political leader. As a fellow-traveller of the sangh parivar, his support for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a given and easily understandable for any one. But his attempt to argue with historians, and venturing to indulge in altercation with those like internationally reputed Prof Irhan Habib was objectionable and immature. How shameful that a governor had to conclude his speech and quit the venue amidst the calls of 'shame' by eminent historians of the country! As a governor, and under political persuasions, he can take a position counter to the protests being raised against the destruction of secularism of the constitution. But the bids to negate the right to such protests and to contend that it is part of the responsibility of the governor would be, midly put, tantamount to devaluing his office.
The best course in the interest of the governor's stature would be to not develop the unfortunate happenings in Kannur into a power tussle. No one, excluding the BJP, is there to justify the governor's action. Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) boycotted the function refusing to share the dais with him. The ruling party CPM's state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has raised the criticism that the governor is behaving in a manner unbecoming of his position. He has also demanded that if the governor cannot function within the limits of his role, he should resign and become a full-time politician.
But Arif Mohammad Khan, displeased with the incidents, is moving with steps that will only serve to further complicate the matter. Although ADGP Sheikh Darvesh Saheb, in charge of law and order and Intelligence ADGP TK Vinok Kumar have provided explanations about the steps taken by the government as legally laid down, Khan was not satisfied with them and summoned chief secretary Tom Jose to the Raj Bhavan to seek a detailed report. His pronouncements to the effect that had he been in power he would have implemented CAA using force, were more provocative to invite protests. Sitting in Kerala, a governor was defiantly telling mediapersons - as if justifying the brutalities adopted against the protesters by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath – that even he would have done the same if he were armed with such powers.
In the light of Raj Bhavan misusing federalism, freedom of speech and the right to protest for partisan political ends, and the same becoming a repeat story in all states, it is once time to revisit the very office of the governor. There is also a relevant question about which of the constitution's lofty goals are being realised through the existence of governors. History hitherto has been that the governor's post – a legacy of the colonial British rul - becomes not the defender but the defilers of the constitution even within its limited jurusdiction. In times when the discretionary power of governors becomes merely a political process in line with the wishes of the central government, why should there be so many political asylums that eat into the country's tax money?