The Centre’s move to appoint Chandigarh’s first independent Administrator — with a rank equivalent to that of Lieutenant Governor — was put on hold tonight following objection from Punjab’s ruling party Shiromani Akali Dal and opposition parties.
The Centre dropped on Thursday its move to appoint retired IAS officer K J Alphons as the administrator of Chandigarh and appointed governor-designate of Punjab V P Singh Badnore to the post.
The appointment of Alphons would have reversed the 32- year-old system of Punjab governor being the Chandigarh administrator.
In 1984, as Punjab was dealing with a massive insurgency, control of Chandigarh, which is a union territory, was transferred to the charge of the Governor of Punjab, a tradition which has lasted three decades.
For the past over a year, Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki had been holding the additional charge of UT Administrator in his capacity of officiating Governor of Punjab, ever since Shivraj Patil demitted office in January 2015.
"The President has been pleased to appoint Shri V.P. Singh Badnore, to be the Administrator of Union Territory of Chandigarh, in addition to his duties as Governor of Punjab,” a Rashtrapati Bhawan communiqué said.
The Centre’s u-turn came after all the political parties, including key BJP ally Akali Dal with which it is in power in Punjab, approached Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asking him to review the decision to appoint Alphons as it would effectively take away the powers of the Governor of Punjab over Chandigarh and may not be in the larger interest of the state.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, warned "Punjab will never allow its legitimate right over the capital and other Punjabi speaking areas to be compromised or diluted".
He is believed to have argued that taking Chandigarh away from the control of Punjab Governor will send a wrong signal to the people in the state where elections are due next year.
Congress and AAP also resented the move.
Alphons says he received two phone calls from BJP President Amit Shah in the last four days. On the 13th, Mr Shah informed him that he'd been selected to run Chandigarh as its top administrator; last night, a follow up call scratched that appointment. "On August 13 BJP president Amit Shah called me to inform that I have been cleared for appointment; but following concerns raised by political parties in Punjab, he called me last (Wednesday) night again to say that it is not going to happen," as reported by ndtv.
A 1979 batch IAS officer, Alphons was known as "demolition man”, a sobriquet he earned after he cracked down on illegal encroachments in the national capital during his stint as head of DDA in the 1990s.
He quit the IAS in 2006 and was elected as an Independent MLA, backed by CPM-led Left Front. After joining the BJP in 2011, he was inducted into the national executive.