The President of India has just announced appointment of new Governors of at least 12 states, including Nagaland, and a Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Ladakh. State Governors in India are appointed by the President of India but are nominated by the union government. The President is the figurehead of the country but is often regarded as a mere rubber stamp. The President of India has no choice but to accept the advice of the council of ministers per Article 74 of the Constitution. As such, the Governor of a state – although appointed by the President – is essentially a representative of the union government. This means, the Governor is a titular head or constitutional head and at the same time, he is the agent of the centre as the union government nominates the Governor of each state. This duality of roles has always been a cause of many problems, especially when it comes to centre-state relations.
Nagaland state has so far had 18 Governors and, with the appointment of La Ganesan, we now have the 19th Governor. Interestingly, a look at the list of Governors of Nagaland state reveals some fascinating points. During the earlier days, all the Governors of Nagaland were retired bureaucrats but by the 1980s, politicians were sent as Governors of Nagaland. Then, from the 1990s on, we have only seen IPS officers sent to Raj Bhavan Kohima. Now, with the appointment of Ganesan, we are beginning to see a new trend – appointment of RSS agents as Governor of Nagaland. With the appointment of Padmanabha Acharya as Governor of Nagaland in July 2014, we saw perhaps the first BJP worker as Governor of Nagaland. After RN Ravi served as Governor of Nagaland for two years, before being transferred out after mishandling the issues around Framework Agreement between GoI and NSCN(IM), we saw Jagdish Mukhi – an RSS agent and Governor of Assam – hold additional charge as Governor of Nagaland for two years. And now we have La Ganesan.
A look at the list of Governors of Nagaland juxtaposed to the Naga political issue also portrays the GoI’s interest or policy. The GoI initially regarded Nagaland as a “law and order problem” and sent retired bureaucrats as Governors. And then when they couldn’t resolve the Naga problem, the centre sent retired IPS and Intelligence Bureau officers. Whether the second group of Governors were successful or not is one thing but now we are seeing a third group of Governors being sent to Nagaland. It is not possible to totally gauge the role played by past Governors of Nagaland and the effect they might have had in addressing the Naga political problem but it is evidently clear that the policy or stance of the Government of India is clearly revealed when they send their agent to Kohima. When you have an RSS agent in Kohima, it is difficult to even try to believe that the GoI is empathetic to the Naga political aspirations. Further, Governors in non-BJP ruled states are often alleged to be interfering in state politics. The news of an RSS/BJP agent being appointed as the new Governor when the state is just about to elect a new government is interesting. The centre is painting the Raj Bhavan Kohima saffron.