After forcing some governors to quit, the Narendra Modi government on Friday sacked Lt Governor of Puducherry Virendra Kataria, in the first such action against political appointees of the United Progressive Alliance regime.
A late night announcement by Rashtrapati Bhavan said, "The President has directed that Shri Virendra Kataria, shall cease to hold the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry."
Lt Gen (Retd) Ajay Kumar Singh, LG of Andaman and Nicobar Islands will discharge the functions of LG of Puducherry, in addition to his own duties, until regular arrangements for this post are made, a Rashtrapati Bhavan press communique said.
81-year-old Kataria, former Punjab Congress President and ex-Rajya Sabha member, was appointed Puducherry LG in July last year, replacing another former Congressman from the state Iqbal Singh, also an ex-RS MP.
The decision comes in the midst of the government having initiated the process to finalise the list of BJP veterans to be appointed as Governors to fill up vacancies in various Raj Bhawans
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other top leaders are believed to have discussed the issue and shortlisted the names.
Political observers interpreted the decision as probably an indirect signal to UPA-nominated Governors to quit or face removal.
The names doing the rounds for being appointed as Governors include former Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Keshri Nath Tripathi, former Union minister Ram Naik, former Lucknow MP Lalji Tandon, former Bhopal MP Kailash Joshi, BJP leader from Kerala O Rajagopal and veteran party leader from Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar.
Following the change of guard at the Centre and the new regime's pressure, five Governors have already resigned. They are B L Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), M K Narayanan (West Bengal), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh), Ashwani Kumar (Nagaland) and B V Wanchoo (Goa).
Two Governors -- H R Bhardwaj (Karnataka) and Devanand Konwar (Tripura) -- retired late last month.
A few other Governors appointed by the previous UPA regime, however, continue to remain in office despite the NDA government's pressure. They include K Sankaranarayanan (Maharashtra), Sheila Dikshit (Kerala), Jaganath Pahadia (Haryana) and Shivraj V Patil (Punjab).
Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal was transferred to the Mizoram Raj Bhawan on Sunday.
Mizoram Governor Vakkom Purushothaman, who was shifted to Nagaland for the remainder his term, resigned on Friday, resenting his transfer "without consulting him".
Name of former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee is also doing the rounds for being appointed as Governor.
Dikshit and Sankaranarayanan too may be transferred to the Northeastern states, sources said.
However, Dikshit, who met the Prime Minister on Wednesday, denied receiving any hint from the Centre to quit and said she was also not aware of any move to transfer her out of Kerala.
Image: In this June 13, 2016 photo, Puducherry Lt Governor Virendra Kataria calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Kataria was removed from his post late Friday.