Meghalaya has been in high ferment over the behavior of its Governor, forcing V Shanmugathan to tender his resigtion. Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit has taken extra charge of Meghalaya in the interim. This time around, the NDA government at the Centre will have to be far more circumspect in appointing a full-time Governor there — for Meghalaya is not just Opposition ruled, it is also a tribal state where women call the shots in a matriarchal society. In an unprecedented revolt, nearly 100 Raj Bhavan employees wrote to the Prime Minister detailing their grievances against Shanmugathan, primarily his alleged behavior with women and converting the Governor’s official residence into a ‘Young Ladies Club’. Shanmugathan has stoutly denied the allegations; so far, no formal complaint has been lodged against him with the police or State Commission for Women. Activists claim that victimized women have been fearful of coming forward, and things will now change with Shanmugathan’s exit as prior sanction of the President is no longer necessary for his prosecution. But unless there is a complaint, they cannot have a case based on just media reports, like the one about a female job seeker’s account of her alleged encounter with the Governor. The Tamil du BJP has meanwhile upped the ante by seeing a ‘Christian conspiracy’ in Shanmugathan’s hasty departure, claiming that he has been targeted for his ‘tireless crusade against religious conversions’. It is known that Shanmugathan came up the RSS ranks before he became a top BJP leader in Tamil du, and later drew close to rendra Modi in Delhi. A gleeful Congress is turally keen to capitalize on the issue, demanding an FIR against the ex-Governor. Considering the serious ture of the allegations raised, it is only proper that he chose to quit (albeit on health grounds) — even though Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has ruled out a probe into sexual misconduct charges at this stage, citing ‘lack of documentary evidence’.
Whether Shanmugathan put in his papers on his own or was asked by New Delhi to do so, the fact remains that the NDA dispensation had to deal with a hot potato reminiscent of the one that landed on the UPA regime’s lap in 2009 over the ND Tiwari scandal. Then Governor of Andhra Pradesh, 86-year old Tiwari had to resign and apologize after a video footage aired by local TV channels purportedly showed him in compromising position with three young ladies. Women activists hit the streets in Hyderabad, a complaint was lodged with the police and the Raj Bhawan staff grilled. That Tiwari chose to jettison Congress for the BJP recently, has only added more spice to the controversy. However, it speaks volumes that the investigation launched to get to the bottom of his alleged misdemeanor, got nowhere. The nogerian leader is still fancying his political chances in Uttarakhand. It is hardly surprising that those victimized by a politicians’ excesses, think ten times before taking them to court, because who knows in what avatar he might return one day to haunt them? But these two controversies spread over seven years have again raised questions about relevance of the Governor’s post, despite its constitutiol status and mandated role during state elections. Many a Governor has acted in blatantly unconstitutiol manner at the behest of the powers-be in Centre to destabilize a state government of an opposition party. For decades on end, the Congress perfected the use of Governors as hatchet-men, pulling out aged politicians and retired bureaucrats to do the dirty job. If a few Governors overstep their ‘political brief’ to descend lower into corruption and moral turpitude, it is only to be expected. This is what can happen when appointments are made to a constitutiol post (involving public expenditure), but the appointees are given an agenda quite opposite in spirit to what the constitution makers intended. Functioning as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Centre is one thing, operating like a cat’s paw is another. The more such mischief is allowed, the less is the prestige the gubertorial institution holds in the eyes of the people. This is another area crying out for political reform.