Governor comes in handy for CPM to declare national ambitions, claims non-Congress anti-BJP space

LDF protest at Raj Bhavan. Photo: Manorama

Governor Arif Mohammad Khan was not the real target of the massive Raj Bhavan march organised by the LDF in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

It looked like the CPM was using the anti-Governor platform as a springboard to position itself as a potent non-Congress alternative to the BJP at the national level. Neighbouring non-BJP states like Tamil Nadu and Telengana were exhorted by CPM and LDF leaders to join the fight against the BJP's saffronisation and there were coded messages to UDF allies in Kerala to desert the Congress.

At the Raj Bhavan protest meeting, the CPM swatted aside disturbing questions of political interference and misgovernance in universities and framed its tussle with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan as a lofty ideological battle to defeat the Sangh Parivar conspiracy to saffronise higher education in Kerala. Governor Khan was considered a mere tool and was, therefore, irrelevant. Khan's name rarely cropped up in the speeches.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who inaugurated the protest, said that higher education institutes that stood for humanism, tolerance, scientific enquiry and the adventure of ideas were not suited to the RSS project of converting India into a monolithic fascist Hindu 'rashtra'. "In this Hindu 'rashtra', there will be no scientific spirit, only blind faith," Yechury said. "It is to this end that they are carrying out this assault on higher education institutions in the country," he said.

Sitaram Yechury and Tiruchi Siva at LDF's Raj Bhavan march | Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheriyil/ Manorama

Yechury said this was exactly how the Nazis had converted Germany, a country that had given birth to progressive and rational thinkers like Hegel and Marx, into a fascist state. "Hitler destroyed reason and rationality in public discourse. Everything was reduced to blind faith, to personality cult and to blindly accepting all that the leader said as truth," the CPM general secretary said. "This is exactly what Modi is attempting to do by unleashing this assault on higher education," he added.

He also said that the Centre was now imposing education policies without consulting with states. Education falls in the Concurrent list and Yechury said this meant that the states had as much right as the Centre in deciding education policies and how learning was to be imparted to its people. "Now all matters concerning education bypass the states and the Centre has become the sole decision maker," he said. The National Education Policy, he said, was imposed behind the back of states, without consulting them.

Yechury also sought to disagree with court verdicts that had nullified the appointments of vice chancellors in two universities in Kerala. The contention of the courts was that the VC selection process had violated UGC guidelines. Yechury said the UGC Guidelines was just subordinate legislation under the basic act (The UGC Act). "A subordinate legislation cannot supersede a full legislation adopted by an elected assembly. This is not legally tenable," he said. "This is centralisation of education," he said.

LDF activists march to Raj Bhavan, the official residence-cum-office of Kerala Governor, in Thiruvanthapuram. Photo: Manorama

CPM state secretary M V Govindan began combatively. "If the BJP was trying to saffronise higher education in Kerala using the Governor, this massive show of public protest is a declaration that we will not allow it," he said.

Govindan also gave a spin to the High Court verdict that annulled the appointment of Riji John as vice chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean. He said the verdict should be seen as a disapproval of the Governor's action. "It was the Chancellor's responsibility to point out that the search committee did not have experts as mandated by the law. He is the appointing authority and the High Court verdict states that the biggest mistake was committed by the Chancellor," he said.

But Govindan seemed more keen on giving out a political message to UDF allies. He used KPCC president K Sudhakaran's remarks on the RSS and Hindu leaders to assert that the Congress was gradually moving towards the BJP. "At this stage, when the RSS and the Congress are sharing a common platform, the UDF allies like the Muslim League and the RSP have an obligation to make their political stand clear," Govindan said.

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