Mumbai: In another instance of a UPA-appointed governor quitting, Maharashtra’s K Sankaranarayanan resigned yesterday after he was abruptly transferred to Mizoram in the middle of the night. Gujarat Governor O P Kohli has taken over additional charge of the state.
Kohli, who arrived here in the afternoon, was sworn-in by Bombay High Court’s Chief Justice Mohit S Shah in the Raj Bhavan in the presence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, their cabinet colleagues, leaders of the opposition and other political parties, judges and other high-ranking dignitaries.
Justifying his decision to quit, the 82-year-old Sankaranarayanan said he had “respected the Constitution” by submitting his resignation to the president. “During my tenure here as Governor, and even earlier in Jharkhand and Nagaland, I never brought politics into my functioning,” said the senior Congress leader from Kerala at a press conference yesterday.
In a veiled attack on the Narendra Modi government’s decision to transfer him to Mizoram, he said that “no government is permanent, no individuals are permanent and they have to change some time”.
The quick-paced developments started around 1am yesterday when Rashtrapati Bhavan issued a communique transferring Sankaranarayanan as the governor of Mizoram.
The order came barely three days after Chavan, Ajit Pawar and other members of the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition boycotted functions attended by Prime Minister Modi in Nagpur.
The governor was present at these functions in which the state government had also extended all the protocol formalities, but the top political brass skipped the event ostensibly to protest against the heckling of non-Congress chief ministers in the recent past by Bharatiya Janata Party activists.
Sankaranarayanan, among a dozen governors appointed by the UPA regime, was already high on the hit-list after the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government came to power, especially since Maharashtra is going to elections in the next few weeks, said a top-ranking government official, requesting anonymity.
But, last month after he firmly rebutted bureaucratic attempts to make him resign, it was largely believed that Sankaranarayanan had earned a reprieve and would not be disturbed — at least, till the assembly elections were completed.
Last week’s boycott of the prime minister’s functions — an unprecedented development in Maharashtra politics — appears to have escalated the exit of the governor, usually considered a soft target during government changes at the centre, the official said.
Top Congress and NCP leaders, including Chavan criticized the sudden transfer of the governor.
NCP president Sharad Pawar said it is the prerogative of the central government to transfer transfers, but what is happening is “unprecedented”.
“This is something new. It is a matter of concern about what the future holds in store,” he said in Pune. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said under the new NDA government, the dignity of office of the governor has been undermined.
“In some instance, an official calls up the governor to quit, in another a governor has to move the courts, those who cannot be removed are being transferred and ejected through the ‘Mizoram pattern’. Though there was no urgency, transfer orders are issued in the middle of the night. All this portends dangers for our democracy,” Thakre said.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, however, said it was an administrative decision and wondered why the Congress-NCP were making it a political issue.
Governor of Jharkhand and Nagaland for a total period of three years, Sankaranarayanan was transferred to Maharashtra in 2010 and his term as governor extended in 2012. His current term in office was due to end in 2017. Shortly after his resignation, he thanked the people of Maharashtra for all their love and support during his tenure as governor.
Sankaranarayanan added that from today, he would work only as a Congressman, the party which he had joined decades ago as a grassroots leader.
“From tomorrow, I shall have no restrictions, I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want and speak on any topic,” he said in a cheerful and relaxed mood.
After the Modi government took charge May 26, six governors — B L Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh), Ashwani Kumar (Nagaland), M K Narayanan (West Bengal), B V Wanchoo (Goa) and Vakkom B Purushothaman (Mizoram) — had quit.
Some other governors — including Sankaranarayanan — were said to be under pressure to relinquish office in June. Sankaranarayanan had then said he would resign if asked by “appropriate authorities”.