A Governor's exit

Print edition : July 20, 2002

P.C. ALEXANDER, whose career ambitions received a setback as a consequence of the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) flip-flop on the choice of its presidential candidate, resigned as Governor of Maharashtra on July 9. He was upset about the treatment meted out to him by the NDA, which first proposed his name for the top post and then switched its choice to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Instead of submitting the resignation letter to the President, as is the practice, Alexander gave it to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and a copy of it to the Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who is also the Home Minister. He did not pay the customary visit to the President. Alexander, when he called on the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, gave broad hints that he did not want to burn his bridges with them as yet and that they could consider him for other assignments that they found him suitable for. There is speculation about his being nominated to the Rajya Sabha or made the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, a post which is likely to fall vacant if the Centre decides to send the current Chairman, K.C. Pant, as its special emissary to Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate talks with separatist leaders. There is also talk of Alexander being considered for election to the post of United Nations Secretary-General, once Kofi Annan vacates it. There is a section in the government that wants India to push for its own candidate for the Secretary-General's post. Alexander has held senior positions in the U.N. and has had international exposure while serving as India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

P.C. Alexander.-

However, there is an equally influential section in the government which says that the government has no need to appease Alexander, and points out that he had chosen to resign on his own. This section, which enjoys proximity to the Prime Minister, is of the opinion that by resigning in the manner that he did, Alexander has lowered the dignity of the office he held. As for the talk about his rehabilitation, this section dismisses any such suggestion. "All this talk of his rehabilitation is mere speculation by the media. He was not asked by us to resign and at the moment there is no proposal before us (to rehabilitate him)," said a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office.

Alexander, who had 10 months to go as governor, has so far refused to disclose the reasons for his quitting. "I am still the Governor of Maharashtra, so I cannot disclose anything. Once my resignation comes into effect from July 13, then only I can say anything," was all that he would tell waiting mediapersons when he emerged after a meeting with Advani. To suggestions that his resignation could have been part of a bargaining tactic to extract a plum assignment from the Centre as compensation for the shoddy treatment meted out to him, Alexander replied: "I have crossed that stage. I have never bargained for any post. Posts have come to me," he said.

On July 15, putting to rest speculations about his plans, Alexander filed as an independent candidate his nomination paper for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Maharashtra that has fallen vacant, following the death of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member Mukesh Patel. The NCP has announced his support to him. Talking to newspersons in New Delhi, NCP president Sharad Pawar hailed Alexander's role as Governor. He appealed to other political parties to support his candidature. Pawar said the NCP's decision to support Alexander was in deference to his desire to remain above "party politics".

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