Governor Khan adamant, seeks assurance against political interference

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with Governor Arif Muhammed Khan. File photo: Manorama

New Delhi: The stand-off between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the government is likely to intensify with the former demanding an assurance against political interference in administrative matters pertaining to universities in the State to continue as Chancellor.

In a letter dated December 8, the Governor urged Chief Minister Pinaryi Vijayan to make necessary amendments to relieve him of the duties of the Chancellor, "so that nobody would question the political appointments and interference in the universities."

The Governor's unprecedented move asking Vijayan to take over as the Chancellor of universities – a post held by respective governors in Indian states – has raked up a controversy in Kerala.

"My job is not to grant casual leave to the Vice-Chancellor," Governor Khan said in New Delhi. "I am not continuing as Chancellor. I won't reconsider my decision until I get an assurance that there won't be any political interference (in matters of universities)," he revealed his position.

In an interview with Malayala Manorama, Khan said he made the mistake of approving the re-appointment of the vice-chancellor of the University of Kannur to avoid complaints by the Chief Minister and CPM. He recalled Vijayan insulting him by using the term "resident" during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, widely known as CAA.

Khan said he decided to relinquish the post of the Chancellor to atone for the mistake committed while appointing the vice-chancellor of Kannur University.

The government has amended the University Laws to avoid consultations with the High Court while forming the Appeal Tribunal. The amendment was made to appoint party men, the Governor alleged.

"It cannot be approved. I have informed my office of my decision (to step down as Chancellor), and instructed them to redirect all university-related files to the office of the Chief Minister," Khan said.

The Governor said he had strived to help the functioning of the government. "Excessive political interference has created the present issue," Khan said, adding that he had tried his best to avoid a confrontation.

Governor Khan, who reached Delhi on Saturday morning, confirmed that he had written to the government suggesting the Chief Minister to take up the post of Chancellor. The government has not responded to the letter in public.

Rejected BJP demand also

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan refuted allegations that he was raising issues to protect the interest of the BJP and RSS.

He said he had informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi when Kerala BJP tried to pressure him on the appointment of the vice-chancellor of the University of Calicut.

"The Prime Minister advised me to act independently," Khan said, adding that he had informed the state BJP that no interference in university matters would be allowed.

Barricade, flag of interference

A plastic tag barricades one of the two-lanes from the Mahatma Gandhi University's main entrance. This lane was used by all since the construction materials have been unloaded on to the other one. The SFI has raised its flag at the construction site.

Despite attempts by the university's higher officials, the 'barricade' and flag still remain, reflecting the political interests Governor Khan had pointed out. Even as controversies over nepotism in appointments and granting of marks grab headlines, the standard of universities has been hit.


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