Pinarayi sheds his long silence, tears into Governor Khan

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Thiruvananthapuram: It was way back in December 2020, when the government insisted on a special session to discuss the three controversial farmers' bills, that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last gave the impression that he intended to take on Governor Arif Muhammad Khan head on. But soon after he had adopted what looked like a tactical silence. Even when the Governor was at his provocative best, Vijayan remained uncharacteristically mute.

But on Friday, the Chief Minister seemed to say 'enough is enough'. "No man can utter a far greater nonsense," the Chief Minister said, responding to the Governor's remark that it was unbelievable that the Chancellor was asked to appoint a relative of a Chief Minister's personal staff without the Chief Minister's knowledge. The Governor was referring to the appointment of the wife of K K Ragesh, the Chief Minister's personal secretary, at Kannur University. 

The Chief Minister was not just livid but was also highly dismissive of Khan. "Your statements should befit the position you hold," he said. "This relative of the CM's personal staff is an individual. This individual, like others, has freedom and rights. If this individual feels she is qualified for a job, she is well within her rights to apply for the post. Will anyone in their right senses think that she, being a relative of the CM's personal staff, should secure the CM's permission. Can anyone who has any idea how the country works think like this? See the kind of nonsense he spews out," Vijayan said.

The Chief Minister said if at all there was a problem in the selection, it had to be a problem. "We will not stand in the way," the Chief Minister said. He said the Governor had no right to encroach upon the rights of others. "What right does he have to say that someone related to the Chief Minister's staff should not apply? Who gave him this right? Is this what is intended by a Governor's post," he said, his voice furious.

Vijayan also wanted to know what made the Governor say that the CPM believed in physical force and threats. "Did he have any such experience," he asked. He asked whether all the political achievements made by the CPM in the country were achieved using force and threats. "Is this (Governor's post) a platform from where anything could be said. Has he thought of the Governor's post in such a way," Vijayan said.

The Chief Minister laughed at the Governor's disapproval of posters stuck on university campuses of Left-affiliated teacher and student unions. "I just can't understand what is happening to this man," he said with a guffaw. "What is he trying to say? Does he intend to ban the activities of such organisations," he said, and added: "Where else should these organisations carry out their work? Should they take these posters to the Raj Bhavan? If they had done that, fine, he can ask them to leave. But if he has any intention of suppressing their activities within their sphere of work, I don't intend to say anything more," he smiled a combative smile and added: "He should realise that such comments do not reflect a mature mind."

On a serious note, he said that there were enough mechanisms within the Constitution to settle any differences between Constitutional authorities. "Instead, if you think showing off in front of television cameras is the best way to sort out issues, we can only say that it is not what the Constitution says," the Chief Minister said.

And then on a light, sarcastic note, he reasoned why he had remained silent till now. "We remained silent spectators thinking that if such comments would bring someone some good, let it be. But we have not seen even this happen," Vijayan said. There had been allegations that the Governor was acting aggressively to please the BJP, hoping his CPM-baiting would win him a top Constitutional post.

The development comes during a time when the Kerala government and the Governor are at loggerheads over a slew of issues, including the university appointments.

Earlier, hinting his unwillingness to approve the Ordinances, Khan had said that he was not a rubber stamp to sign on dotted lines.

He questioned the contents of the University Act Amendment and Lokayukta Act Amendment bills without naming them.

"The Assembly has every right to pass and adopt any measure. But I have a duty to perform, an obligation to see that whatever is recommended to me and asked to sign is exactly in accordance with the constitution, with law, its spirit, and well-established conventions, not just in India, but all over the world," Khan said.

He alleged the bills were intended to legalise all illegal activities taken place so far.

"I have not seen the bill, but whatever I read from the newspaper, one thing I can make clear. I shall not allow the autonomy of the university to be diluted. I shall not allow executive interference in the university - which means, the government trying to take the power of university appointments into its own hands. This is not possible. It will result in an erosion of autonomy," Khan said.

"Autonomy is sacrosanct. I cannot allow a mechanism to be adopted whereby it can be used to appoint underqualified and unqualified relatives of those in power, or relatives of personnel staff of the Chief Minister. I will only take a constitutional decision," Khan added.

It was also the first time that Khan took a direct aim at Vijayan. Khan, in his statements, also implied that Vijayan was a willing-spectator to the pillaging of universities for party gains.

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