Policy speech: Governor reads out paragraph against CAA, avoids Constitutional crisis

Governor to skip 18th para on CAA in policy address, informs govt in advance
Security personnel help Governor Arif Mohammed Khan proceed to the dais of the Assembly on Wednesday even as opposition legislators try to stop him. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan diplomatically avoided a huge Constitutional crisis when he read out the paragraph against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) from the policy speech at the Assembly on Wednesday.

Confusion prevailed till Tuesday night as reports suggested that Khan had informed the government that he would not read out the paragraph, as it was not a State subject.

But he changed his mind on Wednesday and read out the controversial paragraph with a caveat. “I have been corresponding with the chief minister about this paragraph as I have reservations about it,” he said before reading out 18th paragraph from the policy speech, approved by the Cabinet. “But I am going to read this paragraph although I hold the view that this does not under the definition of policy or programme of the government. But the chief minister told me that this is the policy of the government. To honour his wish, I am going to read this out,” he said.

After this, Khan read out the following paragraph:

Governor to skip 18th para on CAA in policy address, informs govt in advance
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan delivering the policy address at Kerala Assembly's Budget Session, (R) the opposition legislators boycotting the Assembly session.

"Our citizenship can never be on the basis of religion. Secularism is the basic structure of our Constitution. This august body unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Centre to abrogate the Citizenship Amendment Act, which, my government believes, goes against the cardinal principles underlying our Constitution. Pursuant to this, my government filed a suit in the Supreme Court, invoking provisions of Article 131 of the Constitution. A strong State and strong Centre are pillars of our federalism. The voices of genuine apprehensions of the states needs to be considered by the central government in the right spirit, keeping broad national interest in mind, particularly when the Constitutional values are involved. There are widespread anxieties and apprehensions among a large number of our citizenry."

Opposition blasts Pinarayi

Governor to skip 18th para on CAA in policy address, informs govt in advance
Governor Arif Mohammed Khan delivering the policy speech at the Kerala Assembly. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

The developments have angered the opposition United Democratic Front, which had given a notice to move a resolution against the government for questioning the authority of the Assembly. Opposition members walked out of the Assembly and staged a dharna before the governor began his speech.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that chief minister enacted a drama to with the support of the BJP-nominated governor. "There exists a secret pact with chief minister and the governor. Khan is the bridge between Pinarayi and BJP. Pinarayi prostrated before the governor as the former wants to scuttle the CBI probe into Lavlin corruption case," Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged.

Governor to skip 18th para on CAA in policy address, informs govt in advance
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan being blocked by the opposition legislators while entering the Assembly.

He said UDF workers will organise protest marches in all assembly constituencies on Wednesday to expose Pinarayi's double standards.

Tuesday's confusion

The Governor had on Tuesday informed the cabinet that he would not read the paragraph.

In a letter, the Governor had stated that he would omit the paragraph using the discretionary power vested on him by the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings. The Governor said that the state government's criticism of the CAA, which was passed by Parliament, was not a policy rather its ‘view’.

This prompted the opposition legislators to hold protest demonstrations as the Governor arrived for the policy address.

With anti-CAA placards, Congress-led United Democratic Front's MLAs prevented the Governor from proceeding to his seat in the assembly.

Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan persuaded the opposition to stop the protest, it was to no avail.

After nearly 10 minutes of protest, watch and ward personnel removed the opposition members using force and cleared the governor's way to the dias. The opposition MLAs later boycotted the session and staged a sit-in protest outside the Assembly Hall with "go back" and "repeal CAA" banners.

Opposition motion

Meanwhile, the opposition UDF is firm that the resolution, seeking the Governor's recall, should be taken up for discussions. The UDF parliamentary party meet on Wednesday morning will take decisions on further steps, including boycotting the Governor.

The Speaker has said that permission can be granted to the UDF resolution as per the rules. “There are rulings and submissions in this regard. The advisory committee will take a call on further action after checking with the Chief Minister,” he said.

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