It now appears that the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala would use the threat of the Opposition's Assembly resolution to recall the Governor to silence the defiant Arif Mohammed Khan.
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan has already said that the resolution, the notice for which was given by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, was admissible. Whether it would eventually be taken up, the Speaker said, would depend on “the opinion of the Leader of the House (the Chief Minister)”.
Governor Khan has been served a warning. If he attempts to embarrass the government during the policy address on January 29, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan could give the go-ahead to take up the 'recall the governor' resolution in the Assembly. If it happens, it will be a kind of impeachment, a first for the country.
Nonetheless, it is still not clear how the mercurial Governor, who was enjoying this tussle with the government, would respond. As was expected, he has expressed his objections to certain sections in the cabinet-approved policy address that deals with the Citizenship Amendment Act. He had asked the government whether it was right for the Governor to speak about an issue that is sub-judice, and also one that questions a law passed by the Parliament.
The government but has stuck to its stand. It wants the anti-CAA portions retained in the policy address. The ball is now in the Governor's court. If he is loathe to read these portions, the Governor was well within his rights to skip these portions. In 2018, for instance, the then governor Justice P Sathasivam was seen hopping over portions in the Governor's policy address that were critical of the Centre.
Leaving portions of the speech unread will not bother the LDF government. What is worrying the government is the possibility that the Governor, given his maverick ways, could do some improvisations on the text that could be seriously embarrassing. So when Governor Arif Mohammed Khan addresses the Assembly on January 29, the 'recall the governor' resolution will be the invisible gun pressed on his back.
If Khan, like Sathasivam, simply leaves what he considers objectionable unread, it could be a win-win for the government and the governor. The Opposition resolution will be thrown out of the window.
The 'recall the governor' resolution was an opposition master stroke to puncture holes on the CPM's anti-CAA opposition. “No governor has insulted the Assembly the way this Governor has. The Kerala Governor is now functioning like the BJP's megaphone,” Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said.
“I thought the Chief Minister would talk against him. He is the Leader of the House. I waited for a week and I had found that he had not uttered a word against the Governor. It was when we realised he was failing in his duty that we decided to give notice for a resolution urging the Centre to call back the Governor,” Chennithala said.
The weapon Congress has used to strike at the government is now being wielded by the government to warn the Governor. Though he said the resolution was admissible, the Speaker said it also had to satisfy certain procedural obligations before being taken up in the Assembly.
He said it would be first notified in the Assembly Bulletin with heading, “No-Day-Yet-Named Motions”. “Whether it should be allotted time for discussion would be decided after considering the state of business in the Assembly and in consultation with the Leader of the House and the Business Advisory Committee (BAC),” he said. The LDF has a majority in the BAC.