Why appointing ex-CBI, IB chiefs as governors not a good idea

Such appointments make the country’s premier investigating and intelligence agencies, as well as the office of governor, vulnerable to political manipulations

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | March 12, 2013


Ashwani Kumar, former director of CBI and in-charge of security of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
Ashwani Kumar, former director of CBI and in-charge of security of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.

While the earlier decades saw widespread debates and criticism of the appointment of politicians as governors of states, which continues unabated despite the Sarkaria Commission’s clear recommendation that only politically neutral individuals should occupy the constitutional office, another disturbing trend has emerged of late.

Increasingly, police officers holding sensitive positions in premier intelligence and investigating agencies, and those close to a particular political family, are finding place in different Raj Bhavans across the country. Former CBI director Ashwani Kumar’s appointment as governor of Nagaland is only the latest one.

Kumar may have the competence to be governor of the northeastern Indian state but what is disturbing is his past associations — both as director of the premier investigating agency and as in-charge of the security of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. The CBI is known more for acting as a political tool of the party in power (disproportionate assets cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are two of the more recent ones) than for high standards of investigation.

Kumar may also be the first former CBI director to be appointed thus but it sends a dangerous signal to those serving in the agency. It opens up a new possibility — a post-retirement reward by way of a high constitutional position.

The cases of BL Joshi (governor of UP), MK Narayanan (governor of West Bengal), ESL Narasimhan (governor of Andhra Pradesh) and BV Wanchoo (governor of Goa) are no different. All of them are known to be close to the Gandhi family.

Joshi and Wanchoo had also served as security officers to the family at some point of time.

All of them were also associated with the country’s premier intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau, which is responsible for internal security and is, just like the CBI, better known for acting as a handmaiden of the party in power (most prominently during the Emergency).

Their appointments may or may not have been the rewards for past services to the Gandhi family or the Congress but they still do raise a stink and confirm to the Congress’s old-style patronage-peddling. That in itself is bad enough and sends a wrong signal to officers serving in sensitive agencies.

Equally bad is the appointment to non-UPA-ruled states (UP, Nagaland and Goa), where they may be viewed with suspicion, undermining the high office they occupy.

These appointments thus compromise two crucial wings of governance — intelligence and investigating agencies and the office of governors. There is a well-argued case for insulating both these wings from the politics of the day, and we can undermine that only at the risk of making them vulnerable to political manipulation. And that surely is not a good governance practice.

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