By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The confrontationist ambience between Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government worsened with the Governor refusing to budge from his position.
A dispute has been simmering between the Government and the Governor over what the latter called the former’s alleged political interference in the functioning of universities. The Governor said the Government could convene a special session of the State Assembly and pass a law designating the Chief Minister as the Chancellor of the State universities. He also offered to sign an ordinance to this effect. The Governor has obviously upped the ante by refusing to function as Chancellor.
Mr. Khan also criticized Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan for his statement that the Governor did not have the right to recommend the conferring of DLitt degree on President Ram NathKovind. He also accused the Governor of misusing his position as Chancellor.
Satheesan said the Governor approved all illegal actions of the Government in the university affairs at first. As Chancellor, he had filed an affidavit in the High Court that there was nothing wrong in the appointment of Kannur Vice-Chancellor. Now he is saying that it was wrong on his part to clear the extension of the Kannur VC’s term. The Governor is now trying to relinquish the responsibility of the Chancellor. The reason is simple. The Governor will have to file another affidavit contradicting his earlier stand. That is why he has cleverly refused to accept the HC’s notice and passed it on to the Government. The Governor said he changed his stance because of pressure from the Government. The Higher Education Minister, he said, had written to him recommending extension to the Kannur VC. If he felt it was wrong, the Governor should have refused to succumb to the pressure, argued Satheesan. Instead of doing that, the Governor meekly cleared the extension of the Kannur VC, Satheesan pointed out.
Mr. Satheesan also said the Governor was not above criticism. “I did not say that the Governor cannot recommend an Honorary DLitt for the President. But it is an abuse of power if the Governor indeed summoned the VC and made such a demand.” The bestowal of an Honorary DLitt was not a private affair between the Government and the Vice Chancellor, Satheesan said, adding that it was not a matter to be whispered in the ear of the VC. The Governor should have, ideally, given a proposal to the Vice Chancellor, which the latter would submit before the Senate for consideration. The Raj Bhawan has not clarified, Satheesan said, whether it had made such a demand. There is no clarification from the University either. And the CPI(M) leadership is silent.
On his part, the CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Government had no say in university matters. Kodiyeri accused the Congress of spreading a rumour that the Governor had recommended an Honorary DLitt for the President “If so, let the Governor clarify.” The CPI(M) leaders say the Governor is acting at the behest of BJP leaders. By going public and making the kind of statements he has been making, the Governor is clearly acting an agent of the ruling party at the Centre. This is the burden of CPI(M) leaders’ song.
Meanwhile, the Congress is sharply divided over the issue. Former leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala had alleged that the Government had, through the Kerala University Vice Chancellor, vetoed the Governor’s proposal to confer DLitt on the President. This is at odds with Satheesan’s criticism of the Governor. . Incidentally, Satheesan has made no secret of his displeasure over Chennithala’s attempts to act as the ‘super opposition leader’, bypassing him and the KPCC president on many occasions. What KPCC President K Sudhakaran and he said was the party’s official stand. This was a clear snub to Chennithala. A few Congress leaders also felt that it was wrong on the part of Chennithala to raise the DLitt issue. They say the Governor is still the Chancellor. And the Kannur VC episode has escalated into a major controversy. This is the real issue, they contend.
The controversy continues to fester as there has been no meeting between the Governor and the Chief Minister so far. Khan is clearly wrong to up the ante by rushing to the press with frequent statements changing his stand. He should discuss it with the Chief Minister in an attempt to douse the fires of controversy. Unless he does that, he will continue to expose himself to the allegation that he is acting at the behest of his political masters at the Centre. (IPA Service)