Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was a grave matter that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had converted the Raj Bhavan into a den of conspiracy. During a media interaction on Wednesday, called specifically to reply to Governor Khan, Pinarayi hinted that Khan was acting like he was the “agent” and “employee” of the RSS.
The Chief Minister even suspected that the Governor, by raking up the three-year-old protest against him at the Indian History Congress in Kannur, was trying to revive the debate around the Citizenship Amendment Act at the behest of the RSS. “It has been reported that the Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) had said that the CAA would be implemented after completing the Covid booster dose programme,” Pinarayi said.
Let the Governor read first
The Chief Minister, however, did not seem overly worried about the Governor's refusal to sign the bills passed by the Assembly during August and September, especially the LokAyukta Amendment Bill and the University Laws (Amendment) Bill. He said the government had not thought of taking the legal route for the moment.
“Let us wait,” the Chief Minister said in a lighthearted manner as if he was amused by the Governor's behaviour. “Earlier when he said he would not sign, he himself had admitted that he had not read these bills. He has to first read these bills to understand its contents, shouldn't he? Now perhaps he might have read them. Once he reads them, he will have some doubts and he will seek clarification from us, which we are obliged to offer,” he said.
“The Governor can also send these bills back to the Legislature recommending certain modifications. But if the Legislature, in its wisdom, decides to pass the laws as they are, the Governor has no choice but to give his assent to the bills,” the Chief Minister said. “To hold on to a Bill indefinitely will go against the spirit of the Constitution,” he said.
Hunt for two historians
If the Governor's attack on the Chief Minister on September 19 bordered on the personal, the Chief Minister largely desisted from making it personal. His counter was scathingly political and accused the Governor of allowing his office to be used to implement the Sangh Parivar agenda.
He said even the Governor's deep revulsion for two historians – Irfan Habib and Gopinath Ravindran (Kannur University Vice Chancellor) – had its roots in Khan's RSS links. “The Sangh Parivar has been trying to rewrite medieval history with the clear intention of marginalising and demonising the minorities. Irfan Habib had opposed this using rigorous historical research,” the Chief Minister said. It was a “glorious fight” that Irfan Habib put up, Pinarayi said.
He said Habib had also moved a resolution against the 'RSS agenda' in the 1998 History Congress. “During the period (1986-1990) he was chairman of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), Irfan Habib had courageously expressed his independent views that were bolstered by unimpeachable research. No wonder, the RSS is too keen to hunt him down,” the Chief Minister said.
The Kannur University VC, whom the Governor had publicly called a “criminal”, too had rubbed the Sangh Parivar the wrong way. The occasion was the Foundation Day lecture of the ICHR in 2015. Pinarayi said Gopinath Ravindran had exposed, right on the stage, the false claims made by right-wing historian and 'vedic scholar' David Frawley who was invited by the then Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani to deliver the Foundation Day lecture. Ravindran was then ICHR council member secretary. “For this, he was cruelly assaulted on the stage by right-wing activists,” the Chief Minister said.
The essence of what the Chief Minister said is this: It is this RSS grudge against these two historians that Arif Mohammed Khan was carrying. “How can he allow himself to be made into a weapon by the RSS,” the Chief Minister said.
Universities as RSS labs
He repeated the CPM charge that the Sangh Parivar was using governors to implement their agenda in states. “Universities are laboratories where they are attempting to twist and contort history to suit their delusions,” the Chief Minister said. And for this, he said the Parivar wants universities in their grasp.
“In Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu there are attempts to use governors to foist vice-chancellors with Sangh Parivar credentials,” he said. Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have stripped the Governor of Chancellor duties, he said. The governors in both these states are yet to give their assent to these Bills.
The Chief Minister said Kerala too had been a victim of the saffronisation drive. He said a former ABVP state president of Tamil Nadu was appointed as an associate professor at Kasaragod Central University flouting UGC norms. The High Court has now stayed the appointment.
Kannur VC no CPM man
Nonetheless, the Chief Minister refuted the Governor's charge that he had forced him to appoint a man of his choice as Kannur University vice-chancellor. Pinarayi said the re-appointment of Gopinath Ravindran as Kannur University VC was done adhering to the Kannur University Act. Section 10 of the Act allows for the reappointment of a vice chancellor for one more term.
He said even the High Court had rejected the petition filed against the re-appointment. Pinarayi wanted to know whether it was the Governor's way of showing respect to the Constitution by questioning an executive decision that was cleared by a judicial review.
No favours sought
However, Pinarayi gave a vague reply when asked whether, as the Governor had alleged, he had sought favours from him. “He was presenting my communications with him in a misleading way,” Pinarayi said. “Being the Governor and the Chief Minister, we talk often. He too had told me many things. I don't think it proper to reveal them,” he said.