Opinion: Governor Tamilisai has crossed the 'Lakshman Rekha'

Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan has walked into the eye of a political storm by making snide remarks against Telangana CM KCR

Opinion: Governor Tamilisai has crossed the Lakshman Rekha

HYDERABAD: Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan has walked into the eye of a political storm by making snide remarks against Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's proposed move to enter national politics.

Governors, by convention, do not talk politics though they dabble with political parties, albeit, behind the scenes. They maintain that 'dignified distance' by drawing a 'Lakshman Rekha' that limits their "freedom of speech". The Governors have an obligation to 'bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution by law established'. Though the gubernatorial responsibilities are akin to that of the President of India, the Governor's office shall not be vested with absolute powers vis-à-vis the Council of Ministers which enjoys the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. After all, the President is elected and the Governor is selected.

Dr Tamilisai, a BJP leader from Tamil Nadu, was appointed the Governor of Telangana three years ago. This is the first time that she is appointed to a Constitutional position of authority. From her very appointment, the BJP signalled to KCR that it had decided to take on him through its proxy. The Governor, on her part, is not shying away from making political overtures that would time and again irk the Chief Minister and also the TRS.

Her remarks with the media, after attending the swearing-in ceremony of Droupadi Murmu as the President of India, that KCR might not go for an early election was totally outside her Constitutional domain of rights and responsibilities. It could be perceived that Dr Tamilisai had breached that "fine line" of desisting from indulging in politicking when she had said that "there was no need to play politics" regarding the flood relief issue between the Centre and the State.

Buttressing her observation, she went on to add that Union Minister for Tourism G Kishan Reddy had given all the details on how the Centre was funding Telangana with all statistical information. This has obviously endorsed the charge of TRS leaders that the Governor had taken up cudgels on behalf of the BJP against KCR, while she was purportedly talking (if at all) on behalf of the State (Government) of Telangana. After all, in her address to joint sessions of the Telangana Legislature, she customarily has to refer to the State Government as "My Government".

Dr Tamilisai seems to have a penchant for courting political controversies time and again. Going by the way she has been tinkering with politics and her proximity to her 'alma mater', the BJP, Chief Minister KCR began maintaining a distance from Raj Bhavan. It's all too well known that he had shied away from the ceremonial Republic Day celebrations in the garb of the covid pandemic; having the Budget session inaugurated by her citing the Houses were not prorogued; and ensuring that the entire rank and file of the TRS turned a blind eye to Raj Bhavan even for Ugadi celebrations. The face-off between KCR and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no secret either, resulting in KCR avoiding Modi even during his recent visit to Hyderabad, under the ploy that it wasn't an "official visit".

The Governor, "by order and in the name of" whom all Government Orders and proceedings are signed, ironically has been openly critical of an establishment that she's heading. Much to the chagrin of the Council of Ministers and the ruling dispensation, the Governor is taunting the government machinery on issues like district collectors failing to receive her when she had visited flood-hit areas and the State Government not extending the necessary protocols.

Is the Governor green with envy over the Chief Minister using the official machinery or seething with anger over the machinery jettisoning the rules of the protocol 'blue book'? Whatever the political hues might be of the Constitutional bosses of Telangana, the writing on the wall is clear that the highest Constitutional authority is acting against the political administration in the State.

The Governor's powers have too many checks and balances that define the role of this constitutional authority only as a figurehead. Certain functions prescribed for the Governor are ceremonial and constitutionally customary. There have been too many instances when the offices of Governors in different States have come under fire from the respective State Governments and the respective chief ministers.

The Congress, when in power at the Centre and the State as well, used to use its nominees, who were sent as governors, to spy over the Chief Ministers and the political activities in those States; and to give pinpricks to the state governments, where the states had non-Congress rulers. The BJP is no different. It has just replicated the Congress model.

Dr Tamilisai's words that the Chief Minister might not benefit from the criticism of the Prime Minister and that "he may not be able to enter national politics" are surely uncalled for and essentially do not augur well for the Constitutional position she is holding.

Though KCR had tried to soothe the ruffled feathers by attending the hi-tea session after the swearing-in of the Chief Justice of Telangana High Court Justice Ujjal Bhuyan last month, there seems to be no fresh cordiality that sprouted between the both. At least, she asserted that the "status quo" continues.

When she said she could not be treated like other governors and that she always liked to be with people, it appeared as if she has the acclaim of serving in various constitutional positions and earning rich experience. However, Telangana Governor's job is the first such assignment that came her way.

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