In 2015, a few days before being appointed Governor of Meghalaya, V Shanmuganathan, then a secretary in the BJP parliamentary wing,said that he would like to read The Statesman and other newspapers from eastern India more seriously as soon he would be travelling to the east. Little did he realise that within two years, he would be a topic for criticism in the press.
Shanmuganathan is the second governor in the North-east under the Narendra Modi government to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In fact, the 67-year-old politician, also a bachelor and a former RSS pracharak, joins the “illustrious” league of past governors in the region who had their share of controversy.
In the past, Romesh Bhandari had made news in Tripura while the likes of Oudh Narayan Shrivastava and M M Thomas had their shares of the blame in Manipur and Nagaland, respectively. Lok Nath Mishra and his ADC Captain Raina also made news in the Raj Bhavan of Kohima in 1992-93.
For the Modi government,in 2015-16, then Arunachal Pradesh governor JP Rajkhowa,who ultimately was replaced, had hit the headlines when he made way for a BJPbacked dispensation. The move earned the Modi government a strong rebuke. With regard to Rajkhowa, the debate was constitutional — mainly about the powers and responsibilities of the gubernatorial post, but in Shanmuganathan’s episode, the issue is one of morality; and that’s pretty embarrassing for Modi,the BJP and RSS as all three from time to time did not mind playing moral policeto Indian citizenry.
At one point of time, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had sought to describe the governor’s post as that of a Raj Rishi — the moral-guiding force behind the seat of power in states.That way, the Shanmuganathan episode is certainly a strong antithesis to what Vajpayee had propounded. This is only to re-establish a fact that moderate Hindutva progressive views of Atal Behari Vajpayee probably do not have enough space in today’s world under the incumbent regime — fondly called “NDA-2”.
One would not like to make a moral judgment on Shanmuganathan, who had to resign rather unceremoniously after the Raj Bhavan staff in Shillong wrote to the Prime Minister on his questionable conduct.
Among a series of charges against Shanmuganathan, the Raj Bhavan staff complained that, “The Governor’s immoral activities in relation to women is well known and can be verified from the Staff of the Raj Bhawan….” Acting quickly and avoiding controversies, the BJP top leadership ordered him to put in his resignation. The BJP sources, without doubt, admit that the episode has left the party red-faced.
However, slowly a few twists in the tale are also unfolding. Perhaps to the surprise of many, the alleged “molestation” charges against the Governor had surfaced at a time when the Congress government in the state is on the receiving end of a similar, if not worse sex scandal, against Meghalaya home minister HDR Lyngdoh.
Not quite surprisingly, the Congress is on a denial mode. In Delhi, several Congress leaders say they do not know anything involving their home minister. In fact, one leader reportedly told a Shillong-based journalist to send him media clippings on charges against Lyngdoh. In Shillong,chief minister Mukul Sangma, who is likely to face a stiff competition in the early 2018 assembly election, said that there was no question of dropping the home minister from the cabinet.Lyngdoh, for his part, feigned ignorance on what’s happening at the said “guest house” at Rilbong , in Shillong, run by his family.
The BJP spokesperson and in charge Meghalaya,Nalin Kohli, said the Mukul Sangma-led government should be sacked for shielding the home minister in whose guest house a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped.
Members of the Thma-U Rangli Juki and the Civil Society Women’s Organisation have filed an FIR against the owner of the guest house and have also also demanded Lyngdoh’s resignation.But police action in this case has been slow and tardy. Surprisingly, things do not end here. There’s another twist in the tale.
There’s a typical RSS and Christians confrontation episode now revolving around this case too. The allegation that Shanmuganathan molested a woman has angered the Tamil Nadu BJP and RSS leaders but their grievance apparently is not against the former governor.
They blame “vested interests” instead. In Chennai, the Shillong Raj Bhavan molestation episode was easily linked to an anti-Christian stance of the RSS and thus against Shanmuganathan himself. The outgoing governor is also an RSS pracharak.
Thus,they definitely see a “Christian conspiracy to malign” the RSS and the BJP and also a former RSS organiser, who reportedly has been in the forefront of anti-conversation activities.A section of BJP and RSS leaders now feel that Shanmuganathan was a victim of a Christian conspiracy as Meghalaya also happens to be a Chrsitian-dominant state. But the former governor has his detractors as well within the Sangh Parivar in Chennai.
Even if, step by step, Shanmuganathan’s political career has not been not a very bright, certainly it does have a characteristic of its own.
Shanmuganathan’s rise in Brahmindominant RSS has been quite fast as he belonged to the Saiva Pillamar (a forward community) but not Brahmin. The RSS-BJP leadership has a double edged problem to handle — one,the legal case against one of their respected members and from a high position as governor, and the other of course in term of real polity. A non-Brahmin Tamil, Shanmuganathan has been a cause of discomfort for many in the RSS circles.
In the past he had particular differences with a local Brahmin leader L Ganesan and Shanmuganathan’s shift of base to Delhi in 1999 was only to avoid a Brahminnon Brahmin conflict within the Sangh in the Dravidian-ruled state.
In Tamil Nadu, the death of AIADMK supremo Jayalal