Guv Arif keeps blowing hot, but Pinarayi says ‘This is Kerala’

‘Ethu Keralam aanu (This is Kerala) is the stock phrase that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan uses time and again, mostly when he wants to lash out either at the Centre or at his now bete noire – Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.

Things were smooth for Vijayan from 2016, when he first took over as the new chief minister and things remained the same even when Arif Mohammed Khan – a surprise choice by the national BJP leadership – was appointed the Governor in 2019.

A seasoned politician, 70-year-old Khan who has travelled across quite a few political parties, starting from age 26, in a short time had won the hearts of many a Keralite through his affable and friendly approach and had no airs of the highly decorative post of his.

But Khan first raised eyebrows when two years back he threatened not to read out adverse remarks about the Narendra Modi government, but later he changed his stand. From then on, it was a different Khan one saw, especially when it came to issues with the Vijayan government.

He was at odds over the position taken by the Vijayan government on the Citizenship Amendment Act and from then on it was a series of tussles with Khan, giving headaches to the state government. He soon got the tag of being the principal ‘opposition party’ replacing the Congress led UDF.

Then came the issue of the reappointment of Kannur University vice-chancellor Gopinath Ravindran and after coming down heavily on it, Khan quietly inked the reappointment. He then blew hot over the appointment of Priya Varghese, wife of Vijayan’s private secretary K.K. Ragesh, to a teaching job in the same university and he put his foot down. When the Kerala High Court took a similar stand, it gave Khan an edge in his tiff with the Vijayan government.

In between he made a scathing attack on the way personal staff members were appointed and even though he promised to take strict action, so far nothing has happened.

And things got more bitter when he refused to ink the controversial tweaking of the Lok Ayukta Ordinance, forcing Vijayan to call a special sitting of the legislature. Khan is presently sitting on the Bill.

If these issues were not enough, recently Khan dismissed 15 nominated senate members of Kerala University after they, despite being warned to be present at a crucial senate meeting, did not turn up.

Khan also warned the state ministers not to speak disparagingly about him and threatened that it could lead to the withdrawal of his ‘pleasure’, clearly implying that if they continue in the same manner such ministers might be booted out.

Vijayan however maintained a stoic silence, but came down heavily early his week when he said the rights, responsibilities and duties of the Governor are clearly mentioned in the Constitution as are those of the ministers. Even B. R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of India’s Constitution, has said the powers of the Governor are very narrow and the apex court has also clarified that the Governor should work according to the directions of the cabinet.

“Everything is clearly written and when such a situation is there, can anyone say otherwise,” added Vijayan.

To a question on the way Khan dismissed 15 senate members of Kerala University, he said what he has done is not tenable under the law and moreover the common principle of extending natural justice was also not adhered to.

But state Congress president K. Sudhakaran, the biggest opponent of Vijayan, said there are very valid points raised by Khan.

“One needs to assess things which he has raised and all what he has raised just cannot be dismissed. There is merit in certain things that he has taken up with the state government,” said Sudhakaran.

State BJP president K. Surendran also did not lose any opportunity to take on Vijayan and also the Congress and pointed out that when it comes to attacking Khan, who was appointed by the Centre, these two political parties are hand in glove. The BJP will defend Khan, as he has done nothing wrong.

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