The gap between Raj Bhavan and Pragati Bhavan, the official residence-cum-camp office of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, continues to widen as both sides remain unrelenting on their respective stances.
Differences between Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and Mr. Rao came to the fore yet again after the State government moved the Supreme Court, alleging that the inordinate delays in giving assent to important Bills by the Governor is leading to a constitutional impasse and also obstructing Bills passed by both Houses of the legislature in the larger public interest.
Going by her response the next day, the Governor appeared unfazed by the State Government’s move.
The Governor took to Twitter to indirectly respond to the Government’s gesture, claiming that Raj Bhavan was nearer than New Delhi (where the Supreme Court is located) and friendly official visits and interactions would have been more helpful.
She questioned the intentions of the Telangana Chief Secretary A. Santhi Kumari in not calling on her since assuming the top office.
“Assuming office as the CS, you didn’t find time to visit Raj Bhavan. No protocol. No courtesy even for a courtesy call,” the Governor tweeted.
The rift between Raj Bhavan and Pragati Bhavan started with the State government’s decision to nominate P. Kaushik Reddy to the Legislative Council in the Governor’s quota. But Dr. Tamilisai held back a resolution referred to her by the State Cabinet on the ground that she needed more time to study the proposal. The Governor justified her stand asserting that she was taking time and it was within her rights. Coupled with this was the Governor’s move to hold Praja Darbar, where she listens to the grievances of the people and refers them to the appropriate department for redressal.
The twin developments created fissures between the State government and Raj Bhavan to such an extent that the government had charged the Governor with deliberately withholding important Bills without giving her assent to them so that they could become legislations.
During the Budget session, there appeared to be a patch-up when Dr. Tamilisai was invited to deliver the traditional address to the joint sitting of the legislature.
But mending of ties remained elusive going by the manner in which the State government filed a petition in the apex court seeking its intervention in directing the institution of the Governor to expeditiously give her assent to the pending Bills, so that they could be implemented in letter and spirit.
The Government, in its petition in the Supreme Court, quoted Article 200 of the Constitution mandating the Governor to give assent or withhold the assent, in which case the Bill should be returned together with the message requesting that the Houses reconsider the Bill for any specified provision and would consider the desirability of introducing any such amendments as it might recommend in the message.
The Government also cited Article 163 by which the Governor was required to exercise her functions or any of them in her discretion only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as its head.
“The Governor is not expected to act independently and this position has been made amply clear by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh vs State of Punjab (1974)”, the Government said.
The Government, on its part, is apparently miffed over the Governor trying to act independently, even though the Constitution did not permit that. The Constitution did not envisage providing parallel administration within the State by allowing the Governor to go against the advice of the Council of Ministers.
Retired bureaucrat R.S. Praveen Kumar aptly summed up the situation saying: “Never in my known memory, have IAS officers been so badly sandwiched between two Bhavans. The Raj Bhavan is inviting and the Pragati Bhavan is insulting.”
He lamented the fact that the people were suffering on account of the persisting differences.
Given the attempts for one-upmanship between the two Constitutional offices, it is time they resolve their differences and rather focus on the public good at large.