Governors are now deciding the political fate of states. It does not matter that the Constitution never gave governors such power; in new India, they make and break precedents at will — or according to their political loyalties.
The governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala, is a shining example of this new breed. He has invited the Bharatiya Janata Party, presumably as the largest single party, to form the government in Karnataka, ignoring the claims of the Congress and Janata Dal ( Secular) combine, which had got together after the elections. Without specific directions in the Constitution regarding who the governor should call first in case of a hung verdict, this issue has often caused controversy. The M. M. Punchhi Commission, and the Sarkaria Commission before it, had recommended that either parties with a pre-poll alliance or the largest single party should be called first. Post-poll alliances are to be considered if these failed. This precedent was decisively overturned in 2017 by successive governors when in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the governors called the BJP to form the government in post-poll alliances although the Congress had been the single largest party in each state. Since the Supreme Court upheld the Goa decision, this, then, could be considered the new precedent.
Mr Vala simply overturned that. He seems to have gone back to the single largest party principle and it so happens that the BJP is the single largest party this time. Since with each overriding of precedent, convention and recommendations, it is always the BJP that is gaining — adding more states to its kitty on the way to its target of commanding governments in all states as its party president wants — it has to be acknowledged that the institution of the governor has been completely undermined. Governors, like the president, are supposed to be above politics. Because they are appointed by the ruling government of the day, they are occasionally accused of political bias but that is far from ideal. Now it seems that it is almost expected that governors shall act in the interest of the dominant party, ignoring convention and precedent.
Mr Vala has given the BJP 15 days to prove its majority, apparently allowing time for as much poaching on the rival parties as possible. As governor, he clearly has no qualms about encouraging corruption. Governors in new India seem to have travelled quite a distance from their constitutional role.