Governor and Related issues


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Role of Governors in State

Mains level : Issues with role of Governor

Last week, West Bengal CM blocked its Governor on Twitter. Days earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had taken exception to Governor’s R-Day speech articulating the benefits of NEET.

These are two of many examples of bitterness between states and Governors.

Who is a Governor?

  • Parallel to President: The Governors of the states of India have similar powers and functions at the state level as those of the President of India at the Central level.
  • Nominal head: The governor acts as the nominal head whereas the real power lies with the Chief Ministers of the states and her/his councils of ministers.
  • Similar offices: Governors exist in the states while Lieutenant Governors or Administrators exist in union territories including National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • Non-local appointees: Few or no governors are local to the state that they are appointed to govern.

Governor-State Relations

  • Acting on aid and advice: Although envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers, the Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution.
  • Discretion: He has monopoly for giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
  • Apparatus of interaction: There are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion. The management of differences has traditionally been guided by respect for each other’s boundaries.

Various friction points

In recent years, these have been largely about:

  1. Selection of the party to form a government
  2. Deadline for proving majority
  3. Sitting on Bills
  4. Passing negative remarks on the state administration

Recent contentious case

  • J&K: In November 2018, then J&K Governor dissolved the Assembly amid indications that various parties were coming together to form the government.
  • Maharashtra: In 2019, after a hung verdict in Maharashtra Governor quietly invited a party leader and administered him oath as CM at 6am early morning. This government lasted just 80 hours.
  • Nagaland: Governor has criticised affairs of the state and allegedly interfered in administration.

Is such friction recent?

  • Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilise state governments have been made since the 1950s.
  • In 1959, Kerala’s government was dismissed merely based on a report by the Governor.
  • Several state governments have been dismissed since then, including 63 through President’s Rule orders issued by Governors between 1971 and 1990.

Why does this happen?

  • Political appointment: This is because Governors have become political appointees. Politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.
  • Nature of appointment: In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • Defying constituent assembly: The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical.
  • Nature of appointment: The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre.
  • Constitutional vacuum: Once can sugercoat it with ideas of constitutional morality and values, but the truth is there is a fundamental defect in the Constitution.
  • Security of Tenure: There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice. While the Governor has 5-year a tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
  • Powers in legislation: There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.

What reforms have been suggested?

  • From the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968 to Sarkaria Commission of 1988 and the one mentioned above, several panels have recommended reforms, such as:
  1. Selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM,
  2. Fixing his tenure for five years
  3. Provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly
  • No government has implemented any of these recommendations.


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