Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari was tactless in his tasteless comment at a public event recently, where he brought up the tensions between Marathi speakers and people from other parts of the country who have made the State their home. The Governor, inappropriately for the position that he occupies, taunted Marathi speakers by saying that if Gujaratis and Rajasthanis are removed from Maharashtra, especially from Mumbai and Thane, no money would be left there, and Mumbai would lose its status as India’s financial capital. The statement triggered a storm in the State that has a strong stream of regionalism in its politics, forcing even the BJP to distance itself from him. Maharashtra is a growth centre of the country and attracts talent and investments. Ethnic tensions, and the questions regarding the character and status of Mumbai, which were extremely volatile topics in State politics at one point, are now dormant. The Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party have a distinct regional character, while the Congress and the BJP vie for the support of linguistic minorities too. But no party frames its politics as an ethnic face-off. In this context, Mr. Koshyari’s statement was unwise. He has since recanted his statement, and apologised.
The long list of transgressions by Mr. Koshyari, and his latest gaffe, should serve as a reminder to all Governors to be judicious, and mindful of the borders of proper conduct. In November 2019, Mr. Koshyari had sworn in a government after a night of political intrigues, in a hushed manner, and it did not last even to test its majority in the Assembly. Once the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was formed under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Koshyari turned blatantly hostile towards it. In October 2020, he taunted the Chief Minister for keeping places of worship closed to contain the spread of COVID-19, asking him whether he had turned secular. Protests erupted and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, was disapproving of the taunt. He refused to accept the list of 12 people that the State cabinet had recommended for nomination to the legislative council. Mr. Koshyari did not allow the election of a new Speaker of the Assembly for more than a year after the resignation of the previous Speaker, citing excuses. He suddenly decided to bury all that to allow the election of a new Speaker immediately after the formation of a new government of the breakaway faction of the Shiv Sena and the BJP, following the fall of the MVA government. He made thoughtless remarks about Chhatrapati Shivaji and Savitribai Phule, icons of Maharashtra’s cultural pride and social progress. The Centre, which appoints Governors, must make sure that such conduct is not rewarded or tolerated.