THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There are no signs of any let-up in the confrontation between the Left Democratic Front(LDF) Government and Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. If anything, both sides have toughened their stance with the Governor reiterating that the appointment of 11 Vice-Chancellors was “irregular, illegal and void ab initio”.
The Supreme Court order does not deal with just one vice-chancellor. That is Khan’s stand. This is at odds with the Government’s stand that the verdict against Kalam Technological University (KTU) VC was applicable only in that specific case. While nine VCs have been asked to reply by November 3, the deadline for two other Cs to show cause is November 4. No Vice-Chancellor has replied so far.
The Governor’s tough stand has come barely two days before the Vice-Chancellors have to reply to the show-cause notices asking them why they should not be removed from their posts in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict. The Governor had issued the show-cause notices after the apex court quashed the appointment of MS Rajasree as Vice-Chancellor of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University on the ground that it was made in violation of the University Grants Commission(UGC) guidelines.
On its part, the Government is exploring the legal options to remove the Governor as Chancellor of the State universities. Reports have it that the Government is having a look at the Bill passed by the West Bengal Government in June to make the Chief Minister Chancellor of the state universities. It may be mentioned that Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra Governments had taken the same route earlier. The Aam Aadmi Party Government in Punjab is also said to be considering a Bill to replace the Governor as Chancellor of the state universities.
Incidentally, the MM Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations had recommended that the Governor “should not be burdened with positions and powers, which may expose the office to controversies or public criticism.” The Kerala State University Law Reforms Commission, which had submitted its report in June 2022, had pointed out that there is no compulsion on the State Government or Assembly designate the Governor as Chancellor of the state universities.
Latest reports say the Governor is ready with his own list of senior professors who may be given charge of the Vice-Chancellors as and when he decides to cancel the appointment of the existing VCs of state universities. Khan is also in no mood to accept the government’s recommendation that Ishita Roy, Principal secretary, Department of Higher Education, be given the charge of the VC of the technological University.
Meanwhile, the Government is determined to intensify the political fight over the limits of Gubernatorial powers. The Government toughened its stand after Arif Mohammed Khan compounded the ‘original offence’ by withdrawing the “Governor’s pleasure” for the duration of Finance Minister K N Balagopal’s term in office. Constitutionally, the Governor does not have the power to dismiss ministers though it allows him to withdraw pleasure against them. Legal experts are of the view that Balagopal’s remark was not sufficient ground for recommending the removal of the minister. The Chief Minister has already rejected the Governor’s request.
What had irked the Governor was Balagopal’s remark that those who come from Uttar Pradesh cannot understand the way universities function in a state like Kerala. Khan had opined that the ministers’ remarks were a violation of his oath of secrecy and amounted to sedition. Balagopal had said that he had gone to Banaras Hindu University after being elected as the national president of the Students Federation of India(SFI) because of a shootout there. Five students had been gunned down by the security guard of the Vice-Chancellor. The LDF Government countered by saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had likened Kerala to Somalia once. Also, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had slanderously campaigned against “turning UP into Kerala”. If the sedition charge is applicable in Balagopal’s case, the same should apply to the BJP leaders as well.
The week ahead is likely to be stormy as the deadline for the VCs to reply will be over by November 4. The Government is watching the Governor’s next move. Will he go ahead with appointing his own people as VCs when he rejects the existing VCs’ reply?
The LDF movement against Khan plans to expose the Governor’s move to implement the RSS agenda in the State. The Governor’s recent actions betray the larger agenda of saffronising higher education in the state. The CPI(M)-led LDF is bent upon defeating the saffron camp’s ‘nefarious’ plans. The Government has made it clear that it will not go back on the reforms it is planning to bring in in the sector. With the Sangh Parivar equally firm on going ahead with its agenda, the higher education sector is set to witness a protracted battle – political as well as legal – in the days to come. (IPA Service)