The Assam Congress team led by chief minister Tarun Gogoi seemingly bears with acting governor PB Acharya even though it had served an ultimatum to the Centre to replace him, alleging that the former had converted Raj Bhawan into an extension of the BJP office.
In December last year, the Congress even threatened to launch a “daily protest” outside Raj Bhawan “if the Centre does not remove the governor within a month”. It even organised a rally demanding removal of the governor, who is also acting for Nagaland.
On 28 November. Gogoi wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to intervene, arguing that the governor&’s continuance had “caused immense difficulty in functioning of parliamentary democracy system and created fissures in the secular ethos of the state. We had welcomed him as we presumed that being a high constitutional functionary, he would conduct himself fairly, cautiously and circumspectly. However, I am pained to say that ever since assuming office he, through his actions, has steadily lowered the prestige of the institution of the governor”.
Gogoi brought to the President&’s notice various issues, including the meeting the governor had with a BJP delegation led by then Assam unit president Siddhartha Bhattacharjee at Raj Bhawan on 21 September 2015.
He said, “It is clear from the video footage of the meeting, aired on local television channels, that during the discussions, the governor was advising the delegates on the BJP&’s strategy almost like a party executive rather than a constitutional functionary. While the governor may certainly interact with a delegation of a political party, it is shocking that the high office of governor has been converted to an annex of the BJP office.”
Another major allegation against the governor was his comment on 21 Novem-ber last year that “Hindustan is for Hindus”. But, in reality, the governor had expressed it in a different way, having said that “if a Hindu national is persecuted anywhere in the world, he or she has the legitimate right to take refuge in Hindustan (Bharat). The residents of the great country should also support those asylum-seekers. That way Hindustan is always for Hindu people”. But the governor did not say “Hindustan is only for Hindus”, meaning others had no right to live in India.
It was distorted and misinterpreted by the media. Shockingly, politicians, including the chief minister, took advantage of the misreporting to blame the governor for something he never pronounced.
Gogoi had said ,“The governor&’s statement has created an uproar across the nation with almost all sections of society condemning his utterance and the ideology behind it,” adding “that such remarks reflected the unacceptably divisive and communal mindset of an incumbent holding a high constitutional post and such an utterance is in flagrant violation of the secular tenants of the Constitution”.
Gogoi even met the Prime Minister on 16 December to assert that Acharya, who made no distinction between his constitutional functioning as a governor and his political and ideological instincts, was “unnecessarily interfering in the administration”.
But on 1 February 2016, while addressing the last session of the state assembly, Acharya criticised the Centre over its various economic policies towards Assam. He said, “Unfortunately, of late, the Central fund released for Assam&’s planned development has been curtailed significantly, thereby raising the possibility of hampering the growth of the state.” While reading out his 114- page speech, the governor also added, “My government has sought for the continuance of the special category status for Assam at the highest level as, unlike many other states, Assam does not have the benefit of attracting significant private investment and Central financial support to maintain the momentum of growth of the last decade or so and to take it to higher levels.” And Gogoi too, while reciprocating, shared a smile with the governor.
The author is The Statesman&’s Guwahati-based special representative.