Escalating tussle between Punjab Governor, AAP govt turns murkier
Chandigarh: An ‘escalating tussle’ between the constitutional head and the democratically elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab has turned murkier with the former reminding the government that he took an oath to protect the Constitution and will not allow violation of rules.
Without mincing words, Governor Banwarilal Purohit reminded the Bhagwant Mann-led government that in the past one year he didn’t utter one word against any person. Rather he has been praising the Chief Minister.
The latest in a series of confrontations is Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s directive to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to remove Satbir Singh Gosal from the post of Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Vice-Chancellor.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, the Governor termed Gosal’s appointment as “totally illegal”, saying he was appointed by the state government “without following UGC norms and approval of the Chancellor”.
The Governor is the chancellor of the PAU, the country’s premier agricultural university established in 1962.
The previous “tussle” between the duo was over the appointment of cardiologist Gurpreet Wander as Vice Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, with the Governor saying the government violated the rules by recommending only one name.
Wander later withdrew his candidature as Vice Chancellor.
Justifying his decision to ask the government to withdraw the appointment of Gosal as Vice-Chancellor of the PAU, Purohit on Friday told the media in a formal interaction at Raj Bhavan that as the Chancellor of the universities he is performing his duty.
“Rather the government is interfering in his functioning.
“I will perform my duty. I have taken an oath to protect the Constitution. The Chief Minister should realise this. In fact, I administered the oath of office to the Chief Minister. He should not forget that.”
A day earlier the Chief Minister in a letter accused the Governor of “constantly interfering” in the government’s functioning.
Missing no opportunity to take a dig at the AAP government, currently facing Opposition pressure to drop cabinet minister Fauja Singh Sarari on corruption charges, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said the government has played fraud with the constitutional head of the state as well as Punjabis by sending a letter to the Governor in English but releasing its forged and fabricated version in Punjabi on social media.
SAD former minister Daljit Singh Cheema said the fraud had been perpetrated in the name of the Chief Minister along with his signature.
“The Chief Minister should disclose whether he was party to this act and whether it had his acquiescence. If not then the Chief Minister should get an FIR registered in the case and institute a high-level probe into the entire matter.
“Since the issue is also one of constitutional propriety, the SAD also urges the Governor to direct the Chief Minister to order an independent inquiry into the issue and ensure exemplary punishment for those guilty of forging documents as well as their dissemination.”
Cheema said the fact that neither the Chief Minister nor the AAP government had issued a clarification on the issue despite the matter being pointed out by the Governor himself indicated that the AAP was playing politics on the issue.
The letter written by the Chief Minister to the Governor in Punjabi justifies the appointment of the PAU Vice-Chancellor.
The signed letter, in circulation with the media, says the appointment of Gosal was done in accordance with the Punjab and Haryana Agricultural University Act of 1970.
The Chief Minister said the appointment was the prerogative of the PAU board. Hence the Chief Minister or the Governor have no role.
“For the past few months, you have been constantly interfering in the functioning of the government, which was elected with a huge mandate. People of Punjab are very upset because of this,” the letter quoting Mann said.
Raj Bhavan responded on October 20 by clarifying that “there is a letter in circulation in the media. This letter has not been received in Punjab Raj Bhavan till this moment”.
However, it says, the letter received is in English and the contents of both the letters are materially different.
Raj Bhavan has sought a clarification from the Chief Minister as to which of his two letters is authentic and why the letter written in Punjabi has been circulated to the media before and without sending it to Punjab Raj Bhavan.
A day after the Governor asked the government to remove Gosal, Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal defended the appointment and accused the Governor of interfering in the government’s functioning.
Dhaliwal told the media here that the order of the Governor challenging the appointment was ‘illegal’ and said the appointment was made following all norms.
Accusing the Governor of acting at the behest of the BJP, he said the Governor is taking unconstitutional action and his letter sent to the government was actually drafted at the BJP headquarters in Delhi.
The minister said the AAP government would not tolerate any interference in its work.
Dhaliwal said the PAU comes under the Haryana and Punjab Agriculture University Act 1970 and it does not come under the University Grants Commission.
He said before taking any action, the Governor should have read the university Act and if it is an ‘illegal appointment’ then he should clarify why the post of the Vice Chancellor has been vacant for one year.
“The Governor is violating the dignity of his constitutional office. If he wants to do politics then there are elections in Gujarat and Himachal, he must contest elections there,” Dhaliwal said.
He added that the government appointed the two most deserving candidates for the post of two Vice Chancellors but both were objected to by the Governor, which clearly shows that he doesn’t want the AAP to function for the development of Punjab and its people.
Earlier, the ‘rift’ between the Governor and Chief Minister Mann was the former taking strong exception to the absence of the Chief Minister at the civic reception organised by him in honour of visiting President Droupadi Murmu.
Reminding the Chief Minister of his constitutional obligations that have to be met on such occasions, the Governor, in the presence of President Droupadi Murmu, had said publicly from the stage: “I had personally called him (Chief Minister) up, but he has not come apparently due to some compulsion.”
“Whatever the compulsion, the constitutional obligations are more important and have to be fulfilled on such an occasion.”
Mann was also conspicuously absent at the Indian Air Force’s 90th Air Show here on that day as he was on a political tour to poll-bound Gujarat along with AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Earlier, the government took exception to the Governor’s decision to seek details of legislative business for the Assembly session beginning on September 27.
“I want to ask the Governor to check the record of his office and tell the people how many governors have asked the government to provide information about the purpose of summoning an assembly session. Till today, no governor did it. Only he is doing so, because he is working at the behest of the BJP,” Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema had said.
Responding to the purported ‘war of words’, the Governor in a missive to the Chief Minister had said, “Perhaps your opinion about me will definitely change after reading the provisions of Article 167 and 168 of the Constitution, which I’m quoting for your ready reference.”
Chief Minister Mann had clarified that the Governor or President’s consent before any session of the legislature is a formality.
“In 75 years, no President or Governor ever asked list of legislative business before calling a session. Legislative business is decided by BAC (Business Advisory Council) and speaker. Next Governor will ask for all speeches also to be approved by him. It’s too much,” Mann had tweeted.