Perverse Actions of Kerala Governor
GOVERNORS in opposition-ruled states are becoming the tools for the ruling party at the centre to advance their political agenda and to create difficulties for the concerned state government to fulfill its programmes and development activities.
Here, the role of the Kerala governor, Arif Mohammed Khan, is particularly disruptive and obnoxious. He had sat on eight bills passed by the state legislature without giving assent or returning the bills to the assembly for reconsideration; two of these bills were lying with him for two years. The Supreme Court made it clear in a petition filed by the Punjab state government against the Punjab governor sitting upon bills passed by the assembly that the governor had no right to do so.
Further, when the court took up the petition filed by the Kerala government regarding a similar matter, the court directed the secretary of the Raj Bhawan to file a report. It was then that the governor gave assent to one of the bills while referring seven of them to the president for consideration. This was a devious move as under Article 300 of the constitution, only certain bills can be referred to the president. By referring these bills to the president, they have been indefinitely shelved as there is no time-frame prescribed in the constitution for the disposal of such matters.
Apart from obstructing the legislative making powers of the assembly, Khan has now embarked upon the brazen act of filling up university decision-making bodies with RSS-BJP personnel. As chancellor of the state universities, the governor has to fill up a certain number of nominated seats in the senate of the university. In the case of Kerala University, of the 23 nominated members, 17 are nominated by the chancellor and six by the state government. The 17 nominated seats include two High School head teachers, four meritorious students and representatives of the research institutions, cultural bodies, media and so on. Normally, the nomination proposals are forwarded by the university and the chancellor approves the list so forwarded. This is particularly so with regard to the nomination of students, who are identified by the university on their merit.
However, the governor, in this instance as the chancellor, has flouted all conventions and democratic norms. Rejecting the names proposed by the university, he has nominated persons belonging to the sangh parivar for all the senate seats, except two. Among those nominated by the governor are teachers who are office-bearers of the RSS adhyapaka parishad; in the journalists, sports, lawyers and cultural affairs categories also, RSS or BJP men and women have been selected. Worst of all, the four students proposed by the university and selected on merit in the humanities, science, arts and sports categories have been replaced by four students who are all members of the ABVP.
The same pattern of nominations was made to the Calicut University senate also. Here too, known RSS-BJP persons have been nominated.
This brazen attempt at saffronisation of higher educational institutions in Kerala has met with strong protests by the Students’ Federation of India, youth and teachers organisations and the Left Democratic Front. SFI has launched a powerful protest movement in the colleges and university campuses. Already the High Court has stayed the selection of the four ABVP students to the senate.
The governor has taken umbrage at the student protests and has resorted to provocative behavior to try and create a confrontation. He announced a visit to Calicut University to attend a function by an RSS-sponsored trust. He decided to stay in the university guest house in the campus instead of the government guest house in the city and started abusing student protestors as criminals sent at the behest of the chief minister.
After a meeting with BJP leaders at the guest house, he issued a press statement through the Raj Bhawan, in which he stated that there is “the beginning of the collapse of the constitutional machinery in the state”. A few days earlier, he had talked about declaring a financial emergency in the state.
While the Students’ Federation of India and other democratic organisations are carrying on a sustained struggle against the communalisation of higher education by the governor, the stand of the Congress and its student organisation is to be strongly deplored. The Kerala Students Union and the Congress party have not even issued a statement condemning the governor’s action in filling up the nominated seats with RSS personnel. Their blind anti-Marxist stance makes them overlook the threat to higher education posed by the infiltration of RSS personnel into higher education.
The behavior of Arif Mohammed Khan has broken all norms of conduct expected from a person holding the constitutional post of the governor. The threats and insults that he has leveled against the chief minister and the state government will not be tolerated by the people of Kerala. The BJP is sadly mistaken, if it thinks that it can use the governor’s perverse actions, to advance its influence in the state.
(December 20, 2023)