Governors under fire for working as ‘hatchet men’ of the Centre

As governors are eager to act as ‘henchmen’ and ‘hatchet men’ for the BJP-led Union government, this has led to serious constitutional crisis and intense conflict between the federal government and the states.

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Abdul Bari Masoud

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TN and Kerala governors accused of advancing ‘fascist Hindutva agenda’

As governors are eager to act as ‘henchmen’ and ‘hatchet men’ for the BJP-led Union government, this has led to serious constitutional crisis and intense conflict between the federal government and the states.

Currently, the southern states, where non-BJP governments are in power, are witnessing an acrimonious running battle with the governors as the states’ ruling parties accuse the governors of trying to impose a “fascist Hindutva agenda”.

In Tamil Nadu, which is a bastion of Dravidian culture, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its allies are baying for the head of Governor R.N. Ravi, accusing him of trying to turn the state into an ‘Aryan land’.

The Left Democratic Front government in neighbouring Kerala claimed that Governor Arif Mohammad Khan had been advancing the political objectives of the RSS-BJP to topple the state government. There are barely any BJP or RSS presences in either state.

Alarmed by the renewed attempt to impose Hindi and the governor’s public utterances, President of the Dravidar Kazhagam K. Veeramani urged both the DMK, which is currently in power, and the AIADMK, which is currently in opposition, and Dravidian parties to maintain their vigilance and thwart the BJP’s design to turn Tamil Nadu, the homeland of the Dravidian Movement, into an Aryan land.

Meanwhile, the DMK government led by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has intensified its campaign to remove the Governor Ravi. The DMK is seeking the support of opposition parties nationwide to sign a petition urging President Droupadi Murmu to swiftly dismiss the Governor.

Since assuming charge in September 2021 as Tamil Nadu governor, Ravi, who is a former IPS officer, is openly meddling into the affairs of the DMK-led government. Political observers in the state have criticised Ravi for interfering with the administrative activities of the government. Ravi’s opening shot was a note to the state government’s chief secretary asking him to “know the existing welfare programmes.” A political discussion was sparked by the Chief Secretary V. Irai Anbu’s circular that was sent to specific departments on October 28, 2021. The governor then took his time signing the anti-NEET bill into law. The governor first sent it back, forcing the government to pass a new law in the assembly. Later, the matter was raised in Parliament as well, with T.R. Baalu, the floor leader for the DMK, called for Ravi to be expelled from Tamil Nadu.

Additionally, Governor Ravi came under fire for praising the “all-inclusive development model” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 22nd Convocation of the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. In an apparent jab at the state’s Dravidian politics, he had also claimed that a “Darwinian” model of growth had produced significant regional and subregional imbalances and social problems. Following his comments, the DMK abstained from the governor’s “at home function” at Raj Bhavan on the day of the Tamil New Year. Furthermore, the DMK party organ Murasoli criticised the governor in January, claiming that since “it is not Nagaland, but Tamil Nadu,” he cannot act like a “big brother.”

In the midst of the conflict, the DMK government passed a bill on April 25 that gave the state government the authority to name vice chancellors (VC) for 13 universities. The bill was enacted when Governor Ravi opened a two-day conference for the vice chancellors of all state, central, and private universities in Tamil Nadu at Ooty Raj Bhavan.

Ravi, who allegedly promotes the Hindutva ideology, claimed that unlike Western nations, Bharat was the result of a “civilisational and cultural evolution that happened over 1000s of years” at the curtain-raiser for “Kashi Tamil Sangamam” held on the IIT-Madras campus in Chennai.

On another instance, he asserts that missionaries like G.U. The Pope purposefully minimised Tirukkural’s spiritual components when translating it into English.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko questioned this, claiming that Governor Ravi was collaborating with right-wing organisations to further Hindutva ideology in the State.

Ravi, according to Viako, doesn’t fully comprehend Thirukkural. He underlined that the Governor’s approval of 16 bills passed by the Tamil Nadu State Assembly had been pending for a long time.

Thirukkural is Dravidian heritage which is a classical Tamil text consisting of 1,330 short couplets of seven words each.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the ruling DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance accused Governor Ravi of purposefully voicing ideas intended to cause confusion and demanded that he resign from his position if his goal was to appease the BJP leadership. “Since he is the Governor, his speeches are given weight. He ought to resign from his position if he is voicing opinions to appease the BJP leadership in order to advance. As long as he is the Governor, he is not permitted to espouse these opinions,” the leaders declared in a statement.

They claimed that Ravi has expressed controversial views ever since he was appointed to the state. “It is unclear if he is doing it to draw attention to himself or to stir up needless controversy and uncertainty,” they claimed.

The leaders criticised him for holding harmful and illogical opinions on Sanatana Dharma, Arya, Dravidam, Schedule Castes, and Thirukkural. We have no problems with him if he discusses his own spiritual beliefs. But it is wrong of him to occupy a constitutional position while expressing poisonous conservatism, they said and added, “The Governor should stop speaking against the Preamble of the Constitution. As per the Constitution, the country is secular. But the Governor argues in favour of one religion and it is against the Constitution.”

In Kerala, too, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan is allegedly behaving like ‘big brother’. He has chosen the path of head-on confrontation with the government in power in the state when he went on to inform the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that one of the state’s ministers does not enjoy the governor’s pleasure to serve. His arbitrary and high-handed “sacking” of eight vice chancellors without giving them adequate notice. The High Court of Kerala is currently hearing the case.

Following Khan’s assertive move to withdraw his pleasure for Kerala Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal’s term after the latter made a remark deemed seditious by the Governor, the LDF is prepared for a legal battle over the limits of gubernatorial authority.

Since the BJP came to power at the federal level, the institution of the governor has become heavily political because governors are actively acting as the agent of the ruling party in states where the BJP was unable to secure the necessary majority to establish the government. The best examples are in Goa, Manipur, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

Other instances include the tenure of West Bengal Governor Jaideep Dhankar, who was recently promoted to the much more visible position of Vice President of the Indian Union.

His term as governor of West Bengal was characterised by unpleasant run-ins with the Trinamool Congress government; he was openly political in his support of the Modi-Shah Centre’s oppressive policies and crude schemes.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary and ex-MP Sitaram Yechury also urged like-minded Opposition parties to band together to protest the alleged “undemocratic and anti-Constitutional” acts of Governors.

Speaking with Radiance, Yechury said the steps taken by the governor target Kerala’s secular, democratic and scientific higher education system to “facilitate the promotion of the Hindutva ideological agenda and control higher education”.

The CPI(M) is attempting to bring the Opposition parties under one umbrella to corner the Narendra Modi government at a time Governors are creating trouble in Opposition-ruled states, and has started a reaching out exercise to fight the “attack” on the federal structure of the country, he said.

The petition calling for Ravi’s dismissal has already received the support of the Congress, but other parties have not yet made a decision. According to Jairam Ramesh, general secretary of the Congress, “Governors who uphold their Constitutional duties are today an extinct species. Since 2014, every individual appointed has been a disgrace and has performed to the tune of “hum do” before that song has even been played.”

Commenting on the current controversy, John Dayal, author and political analyst, said it was Mrs Indira Gandhi who first made the position of governor to control political opponents in state capitals.

“But if Indira Gandhi and successor governments politicised the office of the governor – already a refuge of retired politicians and, members of the coterie – Mr Narendra Modi has totally weaponised it, be it in a tiny C class state of Delhi or in the politically very sensitive state of Kerala ruled by the Left Front for the third time in succession,” he told Radiance.

Dayal, who hails from Kerala, said Arif Mohammad Khan has shown that he is more than willing to be a hatchet-man and a henchman of the man who rules India today.

“Some of the issues, including the attempt to sack vice chancellors, may end up in court, but even without this major development, Arif Saheb has taken upon himself to get under the skin of the Left government, to needle them with constant political controversy, and to use a conniving media to try to rattle the government so it can commit just the major misdemeanour or mistake that can create a reason for sacking it. These shenanigans bid ill for democracy and federalism,” he added.

On the role of governor, he said at no point was he a whip welder, policeman or marshal.

“With India designed as a federal state, each state about as unique as any nation in Europe or elsewhere and many with historic baggage of language, culture, feudal and imperial governance history, the non-elected governor appointed by the Union of India’s president, was an important link that kept the country knitted together. At no point was he a whip welder, policeman or marshal.”

Reverberating his views, Chennai based senior journalist Syed Ali Mujtaba told Radiance that the Tamil Nadu Governor’s recent statements and actions have caused deep wounds to the sentiments and pride of the Tamil people.

Ever since his appointment in September 2021, Ravi has been making public statements praising Sanatana Dharma, saying India has been guided by Sanatana Dharma for several thousand years. He had said, India is dependent on one religion like the rest of the world and that is Sanatana Dharma, Mujtaba added.

It is to be underlined that the position of governor is referred to as a link between the federal and state governments. Any attempt by the governor to act outside his or her constitutional authority would lead to an imbalance and disorder in the way the state is run.