Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan pulls a leaf from the book of his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee and has issued an order to remove Governor Arif Mohammad Khan from the post of chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam, a supposed university of arts and culture.
Vijayan’s move – four months after Mamata Banerjee replaced West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar as chancellor of a number of state universities – comes amid a sharp escalation of tensions between Khan and the LDF government in Kerala.
A similar confrontation is at stake between the government and governors in two other southern states – Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the latest in a series of such clashes in non-BJP-ruled states.
While the governors of these states were accused of being the “mouthpiece of the central BJP”, public quarrels began to affect the administration as well. As the gap widens, the chief ministers of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are accusing their respective governors of being “anti-democratic” and “anti-constitutional”.
Former Kerala University Pro Vice Chancellor Dr. J Prabhash weighs in and says the governors’ stance appears to be “disruptive politics”. Those occupying the post go beyond their constitutional roles and interfere in local politics, he notes.
“The governors are getting involved politically and what the BJP as a political party cannot do in these non-BJP-ruled states, they want their governors to do for them,” he claims.
In the three southern states, governments and governors have shut down over the appointment of vice-chancellors to universities, pending bills with the Raj Bhavans and the alleged lack of respect for the governor’s constitutional function. But Prabhash acknowledges that some of the issues the governors have highlighted, such as corruption and mismanagement, are real issues.
“Many university appointments were made by people close to those in power. Mismanagement in the universities of Kerala is a reality and the Left Front government could have tackled these issues first and then confronted the governor. They would have been at a high morale level,” he says.
In Kerala, the standoff began shortly after Arif Mohammad Khan was appointed to the office in 2019. He initially claimed that the state was indifferent to him and took no action when he was harassed by delegates at the Indian History Congress at Kannur University. Khan later objected to the extension of Kannur University VC Gopinath Ravindran’s tenure, claiming he had been involved in several illegal appointments and also calling him a “criminal”.
But the confrontation intensified when the governor refused to sign the controversial Lokayukta Amendment Act. Khan took the unprecedented step of addressing a press conference to file serious charges against Pinarayi Vijayan, his office staff, the CPM and state police officials.
Vijayan refuted the governor’s allegations by calling him a “tool of the RSS” who “abused his office”. Khan had recently refused to address a press conference in Chennai until two media houses, Kairali and Media One, which he called “government proverbs,” left the room.
In neighboring Tamil Nadu, the ruling DMK and its allies wrote to President Droupadi Murmu to demand the recall of Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi that he was “unfit to hold constitutional office”. A memorandum was signed and sent to the Rashtrapati Bhavan after the cohort failed to get an appointment with Murmu.
The memorandum also listed 20 bills pending with Governor Ravi pending his approval. In April of this year, DMK leaders protested in the Assembly, declaring that despite the NEET exemption law being passed twice in the state assembly, Governor Ravi had not sent it to the president for approval.
“It’s the same age-old tactic that Congress used to use the governor to destabilize state governments. Now it is kicked up a notch with public quarrels as we see in the case of Dhankhar or Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Arif Mohammad Khan or RN Ravi. It’s the same model,” said political analyst Sumanth C Raman.
Aside from the NEET Exemption Act, which the governor may not consider valid in the current context, other pending bills in Tamil Nadu include controversial bills, such as the bill that would lead to the removal of those held by the previous AIADMK to top positions in cooperative banks. were appointed. government.
“Such bills that could be problematic have also been pending with the governor for over a year. There are some accounts that the Governor can have a valid reason for, but there are accounts that must be passed, such as the account against online betting. In such cases, the state government has a valid point,” Raman added.
In Telangana, Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan has made a serious accusation against the TRS government, alleging that her phone is being tapped.
Like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Governor Soundararajan is accused of failing to send eight bills for the president’s approval, including the Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, which she has refused to comply with.
In September, while speaking at an event in the Raj Bhavan, the governor of Telangana accused the TRS government of “humiliating” its office by not allowing it to hoist the national flag on Independence Day or the address of deliver the governor. The state government had entered the Assembly budget session without the governor’s usual address.
In its defense, K Chandrasekhar Rao’s government argued that the governor’s speech was unnecessary as it was a continuation of the previous session and not a new one.
She targeted the state government and its officials for not following protocol, saying, “District collectors and police chiefs don’t show up wherever I go. History will be made of how a female governor was discriminated against and mistreated in Telangana.”
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