WHEN the going gets tough, the tough get going, goes the saying. The UPA government seems to have total and implicit faith in this adage. The appointment of the former national security advisor MK Narayanan as the new Governor of West Bengal, coming so soon after Naraian Dutt Tewari was summarily packed off from Hyderabad for indulging in activities not generally associated with occupants of Raj Bhavans— least of all 86 year olds— leads me to just one conclusion.
This government is not going to allow governors to treat the Raj Bhavans as farmhouses in the city centre for fun and frolic and rest and recreation. For a change, it is telling them: take your jobs seriously, or here is the pink slip. In these columns a couple of weeks ago, I had written about how successive governments at the Centre had reserved the gubernatorial jobs for over- the- hill politicians who remained content being mere rubber stamps or agents of the ruling party at the Centre.
In the last fortnight, the government appointed or transferred eight governors. Four of them took the oath of office on Friday and the rest are scheduled to do so soon after the Republic Day formalities are done with. Of the 28 incumbents, politicians with 16, not surprisingly form the majority. There are four retired IAS officers: former home secretary NN Vohra in Srinagar, retired Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt in Chattisgarh, former civil aviation secretary SS Sidhu in Goa, and former Home Secretary BP Singh in Sikkim. Two more are former army men: Retd General JJ Singh and retd Lt Gen MM Lakhera. The rest are, you may have guessed, all retired police officers.
Never in history have six ex- police officers occupied the post of governors at the same time. And the fact that all six, whose efficiency is beyond question and integrity beyond reproach, are in charge of sensitive states is probably an indication that the government truly believes that when the going gets tough, you really have to get the tough going. Narayanan, an IPS officer, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau and the NSA, is now in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee is not the only threat to law and order. When the Telangana strife began, the centre showed the door to ND Tiwari and asked ESL Narasimhan, then governor of Chattisgarh, to hold concurrent charge of Andhra Pradesh.
Narasimhan now has been confirmed as the governor of the state, his old post in Raipur going to retired IAS officer Shekhar Dutt. Narasimhan is a 1968 batch IPS officer and, hailing as he does, from the Andhra cadre, there is no one better suited than him to understand, evaluate and tackle the situation in the state which, if handled without some amount of Narasimhan deftness, could turn into an inferno.
Ex Army man JJ Singh was Director General at the Military Operations Directorate. The Chinese fear none, but it still makes sense to have him as the governor of Arunachal Pradesh where Beijing loves to poke its nose. Nikhil Kumar, Gurbachan Jagat and RS Mooshahary have all had distinguished careers in police forces in different states and are posted in similarly crucial North east stations while the services of BL Joshi, who joined the police in 1957 and has had long stints working with Interpol, Narcotics and Internal Security is just what lawless Uttar Pradesh needs.
These are proven people in sensitive posts. Take them away and who are you left with? The old style politicians whose utility dates in that rough and tumble world is long expired and who are now being used as agents and political rubber stamps in states where the threat is not to the centre, but the ruling party at the centre. This is not to suggest that none of the 16 political appointees deserve to be in their Raj Bhavans. They were all posted as governors because they had reached the sunset of their political careers. As career politicians, they can at best play backroom politics to aid their benefactors at the centre. It is challenge that bring out the best in man. And as these increase by the day, I believe that this government — and those that follow— will think of men and women with proven administrative skills for the Raj Bhavan jobs. Governors should be made of such mettle.