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How are Governors appointed, and why is their role often controversial?

Twelve states and the Union Territory of Ladakh will have new Governors, the Centre announced on Sunday (February 12). This includes both first-time appointments as well as transfers of Governors from one state to the other.

According to a press release issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariat, President Droupadi Murmu has appointed:

* Lt Gen KT Parnaik as Governor of Arunachal Pradesh;

* Lakshman Prasad Acharya as Governor of Sikkim;

* C P Radhakrishnan as Governor of Jharkhand;

* Shiv Pratap Shukla as Governor of Himachal Pradesh;

* Gulab Chand Kataria as Governor of Assam; and

* Justice (Retd.) S Abdul Nazeer as Governor of Andhra Pradesh.

The following Governors have new responsibilities:

* Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, has been appointed Governor of Chhattisgarh;

* Anusuiya Uikye, Governor of Chhattisgarh, has been appointed as Governor of Manipur;

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* La. Ganesan, Governor of Manipur, has been appointed as Governor of Nagaland;

* Phagu Chauhan, Governor of Bihar, has been appointed as Governor of Meghalaya;

* Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, Governor of Himachal Pradesh, appointed as Governor of Bihar;

* Ramesh Bais, Governor of Jharkhand, has been appointed as Governor of Maharashtra;

* Brig. B D Mishra (Retd.), Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, has been appointed as Lt Governor of Ladakh.

How is the Governor of a state appointed?

Article 153 of the Constitution says “There shall be a Governor for each State.” A few years after the commencement of the Constitution, an amendment in 1956 laid down that “nothing in this article shall prevent the appointment of the same person as Governor for two or more States”.

Article 155 says that the “Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal”. Under Article 156, “the Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President”, but his normal term of office will be five years. If the President withdraws her pleasure before the completion of five years, the Governor has to step down. Since the President acts on the aid and advice of the Prime Minister and the Union Council of Ministers, in effect, the Governor is appointed and removed by the central government.

Also Read | Governor’s powers, friction with states, and why this happens often

Articles 157 and 158 lay down the qualifications of the Governor and the conditions of his office. The Governor must be a citizen of India and should have completed the age of 35 years. The Governor should not be a member of Parliament or a state legislature, and must not hold any other office of profit.

What is the relationship between the Governor and the state government?

The position of the Governor is envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the state. However, the Governor enjoys certain powers under the Constitution — such as giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature; determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority in the state Assembly; or, in cases such as a hung verdict in an election, which party must be called first to prove its majority — which make his position very significant. Over the decades, Governors have been seen as acting on the behest of the central government in power at the time, and have been accused by state governments, especially those in opposition, as acting as “agents of the Centre”.

Also Read | A reality check for Raj Bhavans: Governor has no discretionary powers

Also, the Constitution lays down no provisions for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion. This has traditionally been guided by respect for each other’s boundaries. Of late, however, there have been bitter and acrimonious exchanges between state governments and Governors, with Governors such as the current Raja Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, R N Ravi, and Arif Mohammed Khan have been accused of partisan conduct by the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala respectively.

But why does such friction take place?

“Because Governors have become political appointees,” constitutional expert Dr Faizan Mustafa had told The Indian Express earlier. “The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical. But politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.”

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Constitutional expert Alok Prasanna of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy had said: “The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre. You can sugarcoat it with ideas of constitutional morality and values, but the truth is there is a fundamental defect in the Constitution.”

Indeed, there is no provision for impeaching the Governor, and in the event of a particularly bitter and prolonged tussle between the state and central governments, the Centre can, up to five years, use Raj Bhavan to indefinitely create problems for the state.

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In 2001, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution set up by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, had noted, “… Because the Governor owes his appointment and his continuation in the office to the Union Council of Ministers, in matters where the Central Government and the State Government do not see eye to eye, there is the apprehension that he is likely to act in accordance with the instructions, if any, received from the Union Council of Ministers… Indeed, the Governors today are being pejoratively called the ‘agents of the Centre’.”

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