THE job of governor has always been seen as a sinecure. Over- the- hill politicians who needed to be “ accommodated” were dispatched to Raj Bhavans across the country where at best, they were content being mere rubber stamps, at worst, agents for the ruling party at the Centre. Long before Narain Dutt Tiwari came along, most of us knew that the salubrious environments of the gubernatorial estates can make even workaholics lazy. Of course it was Tiwari who showed us how really laid- back the job was. When large parts of Andhra Pradesh burnt over Telangana, Tiwari was busy quelling the fire within his 86 year old frame.
Tiwari is the rule, but there are exceptions.
Years ago, there was Garry Saxena, the former RAW chief who had two stints as governor of the troubled Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s. His role in reviving the government machinery when insurgency was at its peak in the state can’t be minimised. It is perhaps no coincidence that the most proactive governor now is another retired IPS officer, ESL Narasimhan, the former IB chief and governor of Chattisgarh. Last week, I had written about Narasimhan creating a history of sorts when he asked the Centre to restrain home minister P. Chidambaram from visiting the Naxal- hit districts of Chhattisgarh.
After Tiwari quit the Hyderabad Raj Bhavan in shame, Narasimhan was concurrently assigned the Hyderabad job and in less than a week, the results are there for all to see. Last week, the Centre summoned him to Delhi for consultations. This has raised eyebrows since, when a state government is in office, it is the chief minister that New Delhi interacts with. The call to Narasimhan is a sure sign that the Centre thinks he has started well. Repulsive as their efforts were, the TV channel that did a sting operation on Tiwari’s alleged romp may have done the people of Andhra Pradesh a favour by forcing him to quit.
There is no better replacement than Narasimhan who has got the confidence of 10 Janpath and shares a good rapport with the national security advisor M. K. Narayanan. Narasimhan got down to work right away, and spent New Year’s Eve not in Raipur but in Hyderabad. In less than a week that he has been in charge, the stand- in governor has initiated a series of measures that have raised confidence levels in the ruling establishment.
On his first day at work, he met with a cross section of the political leaders in Hyderabad. Shortly after he met the TRS’s Chandrasekhar Rao, Narasimhan spoke to Narayanan, the Prime Minister’s secretary TKA Nair and home secretary G. K. Pillai. The feed- ESL Narasimhan back from him was in line with the initiatives that the Centre had in mind for the state. As far as creation of the new Telangana state was concerned, his advice was that “ nothing need be done in a hurry”. Another document marked “ Top Secret” dispatched to New Delhi last Wednesday had detailed minutes of his interactions with leaders of 14 political parties in the state ranging from the Congress, the TDP, the Left and the BJP besides details of his meetings with chief minister K Rosiah and members of his cabinet. He made independent assessments of the likely impact that the impending bandh called by opposition parties would have on various parts of the state.
The Joint Director of IB posted in Hyderabad was asked to send twice daily reports on the law and order situation, especially the safety and security of the many central government installations spread across the state. His impeccable credentials as an officer give him the right to pick up his mobile phone and talk directly to the Home Minister and senior officials in the PMO as well as summon senior Central and state officials for discussions.
The lure of a long stint in the Raj Bhavan is too irresistible for politicians whose best days are behind them. Andhra Pradesh has shown that a governor’s job is not a time- pass occupation. In the few days he has been in charge, Narasimhan has already made a difference. There is a moral in this. If a pesky retired politician has to be accommodated, give him a PSU chairmanship or some such thing.
The company will already have been milked so dry, there will be nothing left to be lost.