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India Had Never Really Been a Federal State, Wrote Pranab Mukherjee in Memoir 'The Presidential Years'

File image of late Pranab Mukherjee.

File image of late Pranab Mukherjee.

Late President Pranab Mukherjee said that "over the years, federalism has taken many forms, the more recent being 'cooperative federalism' and 'competitive federalism".

Sharing details on why he was forced to remove JP Rajkhowa as the governor of Arunachal Pradesh in 2016, former President Pranab Mukherjee in his memoir wrote “…at some point though, I had expressed my displeasure to the home minister (Rajnath Singh) on the governor’s conduct. Everybody wanted to wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict. I was expecting, as others were, of some interim order, but when it did not come, I had to act. The verdict, when it came, indicted the governor on all counts, but Rajkhowa did not quit. I told the home minister that if the governor did not act, I would have to — in other words, ask the governor to quit”.

Writing on the subject of federalism and on powers of the governor, Mukherjee in the fourth volume of his autobiography ‘The Presidential Years: 2012-2017’, wrote, “…must confess that I was unhappy with the governor’s action. I have always maintained that the governor is not the ruler of a state; he acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. The governor does not even belong to the state, so how can he take on the mantle of a ruler!”

Mukherjee wrote in his book that India had never really been a federal state. He added, “The federal structure as we understand it today, simply refers to a broad arrangement symbolizing a healthy relationship between the Centre and the states. Over the years, federalism has taken many forms, the more recent being 'cooperative federalism' and 'competitive federalism'.”

The episode Mukherjee mentioned here was about the constitutional crisis that arose in Arunachal Pradesh in late 2015 when the then speaker of the state assembly, Nabam Rebia, against whom an impeachment motion had been moved, disqualified 14 Congress MLAs.

The case went to Guwahati High Court followed by the Supreme Court, during which President’s Rule was imposed in the state. The Congress which ruled the state at that time was eventually trumped by the BJP when Prema Khandu joined the BJP-led alliance with over 40 MLAs. Mukherjee went on to remove Rajkhowa as the governor of the state.

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