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Monday, Jul 05, 2004

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Columns - Offhand


Row over Governors

B. S. Raghavan

I AM confirmed in my belief that a distinct and disturbing personality change has come over the BJP in the aftermath of the traumatic blow inflicted upon it by the electorate in the recent Lok Sabha election. First, the unseemly public spectacle of the top leaders, including, surprisingly, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, supposedly the most gifted with political panache among them bickering over the cause of the debacle.

And now, while the dust of that dogfight is yet to settle down, all of them are kicking up a bitter row over the UPA Government's decision to replace some of the Governors appointed when the NDA was in power. Here, the BJP is shooting itself in its foot on two counts.

For starters, it has violated the hoary law of politics that it is the height of imprudence for any party to make a casus belli of more than one substantive issue at any given time. The reason is simple: It is difficult for the public to focus on too many issues simultaneously with the result that as and when a new issue is raised, the other issues get blanked out.

The BJP, already in the midst of a fight over the inclusion by Dr Manmohan Singh of "tainted Ministers" in his Cabinet, ought to have kept the focus searingly on it until it was burnt into the people's psyche.

It is puzzling how a party as seasoned as the BJP did not realise the vital public importance of relentlessly pressing ahead with the question of "tainted Ministers", instead of frittering away its energies on non-issues such as continuance or otherwise of previously appointed Governors in their posts.

It is an indisputable fact that, over time, it has become the practice for ruling parties or combines to use the Governors' outsized and expensive mansions as the dumping ground of persons who have been rejected at the hustings, or are troublemakers to be placated with a sop, or can be depended upon to act as hatchet men of the party or need to be rewarded for their services to the party.

In this sense, they are indeed political appointees, and it is natural for a rival party forming Government to be distrustful of them. There have been too many instances of Governors acting as party hacks to view their role as strictly inspired by the values and ideals that the founding fathers had in mind.

In any case, if Attorneys-General, Solicitors-General and Advocates-General, with high professional standing, are expected to resign with a change of Government, why not Governors of far more dubious credentials?

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