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Of Governors and Chief Ministers

By C.V. Gopalakrishnan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 30. The propriety of the decision taken by the Governor of a State in appointing as its Chief Minister a person who is not a member of the State legislature - and which has now become a controversial issue in Tamil Nadu - has been discussed by Dr. P.C. Alexander, who was Governor of Tamil Nadu before being appointed Governor of Maharashtra, in his recently- published India in the New Millennium. He has also commented on the Sarkaria Commission, which is also of current interest in Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Alexander's comments on the appointment of a Chief Minister by a Governor, however, recall times when the situation was far different from what it is today in Tamil Nadu. ``The most conspicuous case of constitutional impropriety by the Governor in the exercise of discretion to choose the Chief Minister,'' he writes, ``took place in 1952 when the then Governor of Madras, Sri Prakasa, invited Rajagopalachari to form the government in the composite State.

The Congress Party was reduced to a minority in the State Assembly and the Communist Party of India appeared to be in a better position to form the Government. But the Governor was convinced that a Communist government would not be in the best interest of the country and therefore the Communist Party should be kept out of office at all costs. The Governor was also convinced that if Rajagopalachari could be persuaded to lead the Congress Party he would be able to muster additional strength to form a Government without difficulty.

But Rajagopalachari was not a member of either house of the legislature and was also unwilling to contest the election. The Governor nominated him to the Legislative Council as the Leader of the Party. The Governor as part of the plan in nominating Rajagopalachari to the council promptly invited him to form the Government, which he did.

``The nomination of a person to the Legislative Council without the advice of the council of ministers and the selection of a nominated member as Chief Minister constituted by all standards a gross breach of constitutional propriety and morality. Equally so was the deliberate decision of the Governor to ignore the claims of the Communist Party of India to form the Government on the basis of his subjective views about national interest.''

Recalling how the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had his reservations about the Governor's action, Dr. Alexander writes that Nehru had in a letter to Rajaji before his induction as Chief Minister said: ``One thing we must avoid is giving the impression that we stick to office and that we want to keep others out at all costs.''

But this was exactly what happened because of Sri Prakasa's personal conviction that Madras State at that time should not have a Communist-led Government.

Dr. Alexander has also referred to the Sarkaria Commission in the context of the invitation to Rajaji. ``Probably it was this Madras precedent which prompted the Sarkaria Commission to make an observation in its report several years later that the Governor's task is to see that a government is formed and not to try to form a government which will pursue the policies he approves.''

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