Punjab’s last full-time governor, Shivraj Patil, had relinquished charge on January 21 and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki assumed additional charge the next day. Solanki, a hardcore RSS man, was appointed the Haryana governor in July 2014 after the Modi government took over. His appointment came just over two months before the crucial assembly polls in the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triumphed in the October 2014 polls and formed its first government in the state. The Modi government, which had appointed several new governors after coming to power, has not been able to find a suitable person for Punjab governor. The post is important not only because Punjab is a frontier state but also because the governor is also the administrator of the union territory (UT) of Chandigarh, a post in which the incumbent enjoys vast powers. Chandigarh enjoys the unique status of being a UT and also the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
“It is strange that the Modi government has not been able to find a regular governor for Punjab. Punjab and Haryana have several disputes over river waters, territory and other issues. Both states also have issues regarding Chandigarh. Having the same man as constitutional head of both states for a longer time can lead to odd situations in governance,” a senior Punjab bureaucrat, who once served with a Punjab governor, told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.
After Patil’s tenure ended, names of senior BJP leaders like Vijay Kumar Malhotra, union minister Najma Heptulla and others were doing rounds for the post.
Punjab has a Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government since 2007. The alliance is in its second term (2012 onwards) in the state.
Assembly elections in Punjab are likely in February-March 2017 and political activity has already picked up in the run-up to that. The two major political forces, the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress, are getting a tough challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in the April-May 2014 general elections.
Patil, a former union home minister, was not asked to resign nor was he sacked by the Modi government after it came to power. Several other governors, who had been appointed by the previous Congress-led UPA government at the centre, were either asked to quit or were dismissed.
Patil, whose tenure remained largely non-controversial but lacklustre, especially in the context of Chandigarh, was allowed to complete his five-year tenure. He had assumed office on January 22, 2010.
By Jaideep Sarin, IANS