Even while playing down the perceived instability in the governor-government ties, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Sunday said that the government and the party would not tolerate any of the governor's unnecessary demands and interventions.
Kodiyeri said the pension for the personal staff of ministers would stay however much the governor was opposed to it. "That is for the government to decide, not the governor," the CPM state secretary told reporters after the CPM state committee meeting on Sunday.
Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had said that the ministers' personal staff were entitled to pension benefits after just two years of service and argued that it was anti-constitutional and a naked abuse of power.
Kodiyeri said that the LDF government's actions before the governor's address in the Assembly on February 18 should not be seen as a surrender. "It is usual for the chief minister to meet the governor before the policy address," the CPM state secretary said.
Kodiyeri did not subscribe to CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran's view that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's visit to the Raj Bhavan on the day before the governor's address was politically damaging to the LDF. "A government always looks how best to handle a situation. When a crisis crops us, a government's priority is to find ways to defuse it. A government would never want a sustained mode of confrontation with the governor's office," Kodiyeri said.
The CPI leader had also said that the chief minister had not discussed with the LDF before visiting the governor. Kodiyeri dismissed this remark. "It is not after informing LDF leaders that the chief minister visits the governor. These visits are something the chief minister decides at his level," Kodiyeri said.
He also refuted reports that the governor had asked the government to remove the General Administration Principal Secretary K R Jyothilal who had written a letter to the governor's office saying that the governor's desire to have as his personal assistant a BJP member was against conventions. "The governor himself had said that he had not made any such demand," Kodiyeri said.
Fact is, when Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said on February 19 that he had not asked for the top official's head, he was actually saying that he was not naive enough to believe that an officer would send such a letter without the knowledge of his political boss, the chief minister. "These officers are poor things obliged to carry out the instructions of their political masters," the governor had said.
Nonetheless, unlike the governor who was belligerence personified during the last few days, Kodiyeri was in his zen zone. Even when he hinted that the governor should know his limits, the CPM state secretary said this in a manner of a man who has seen it all. "If the situation deteriorates, the government knows how to deal with it. The party will also intervene," Kodiyeri said, without a hint of rancour. "But we have not come to such a situation," he said.
Further, he said that his party was aware that the Centre was using governors to unsettle unfriendly state governments. "If such a thing happens, the government will respond strongly. Now that the situation seems to have eased, there is no need to go after it," he said.
When Kodiyeri was reminded that the governor had called for the pension files of the personal staff of ministers, he said there was nothing wrong with the move as long as it was to gather information. "The governor himself had said that he came to know of such a practice only recently. The pension was there right from 1984, and was introduced during the time of the UDF. The subsequent LDF government had also persisted with the practice. The governor cannot ask the government to put an end to a practice that has political consensus in the state," Kodiyeri said.
Kodiyeri was also told of the governor's remark that he would come up with a proper response on the personal staff pension in a month. Kodiyeri was unperturbed. "We will also wait for a month," he said.
However, he termed as "false" the governor's allegation that personal staff were changed every two years so that more party men could claim pension benefits. "A minister's staff will remain unchanged for five years," Kodiyeri said.
He also said that the CPM party programme wanted the post of governor abolished. "Now that there is a governor, the government does not want confrontation," the CPM state secretary said.