. After about quarter of a century (1990-2014) of relative calm, the governor’s role and powers have again become a controversial issue in Indian politics. This of course coincides with the appearance of a single party with a comfortable majority at the centre. During the last few years, the governors of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and, of course, West Bengal have played their roles in such a way as to make them highly controversial without necessarily adding to the glory of the office. If we had thought that the sharp controversies around the constitutionality of governors’ actions on many occasions during the 1960s and 1970s had unobtrusively created certain healthy conventions for governors in later decades to follow, we have been proved wrong.
Various important and well-intentioned attempts were made both to understand the role of the governor in our federal democratic set up and to recommend ways to make this institution conducive to strengthening center-state relations; for instance, the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968, the Rajamanar Committee of 1969, Committee of Governors of 1971, Bangalore Seminar of Experts of 1983 and finally, the Sarkaria commission of 1988. All of them more or less agreed on one point, that the image of the governor as merely an agent of the centre sitting in state capitals and desperately seeking an opportunity to run down the state government when it is in the hands of a party opposed to the party ruling at the centre or trying to bring about a government of the same party as at the centre will deform our federalism and destroy our democracy.
The constitution empowers the governor to reserve a bill for the President’s consideration. This is an important ‘discretionary power’ which is necessary for the governor to make sure that state’s laws fall within the framework of the constitution. But such gubernatorial interference would be necessary only very rarely and the expectation, contrary to the reality, is that its procedure should not be misused to ‘cold storage’ a bill fairly passed by the state legislature. The centre’s interference with state legislative process was so much disliked by the BJP that in its submission to the Sarkaria Commission, it suggested that the centre before passing a bill even on an item in the Concurrent List should consult the states.