Kerala VCs continue on borrowed time as Governor-CM slug it out

A piquant situation has arisen in Kerala, known for its high educational standards, as literally a ‘war has broken out between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the running of the higher education sector.

The tussle began when Khan, also the Chancellor by virtue of being the Governor, tried to implement the rights and responsibilities vested with a Chancellor. Khan attacked the Kannur University Vice Chancellor, Gopinath Raveendran and said he is a criminal. Since then it has been a free for all.

Then came another outburst when Khan went hammer and tongs after Kannur University cleared the appointment of the private secretary of Vijayan, K.K. Ragesh’s wife Priya Verghese to the post of Associate Professor in the Malayalam language.

Khan had earlier said that the appointment lacks merit and that Priya Verghese was way behind other aspirants for the job but due to alleged political support, she had become the number one in the list.

He then froze the appointment and so did the Kerala High Court.

Then came the next round when Khan refused to ink two Ordinances — one concerning the universities and the other which would have tweaked the powers of the Chancellor.

After Khan’s refusal, Vijayan called a special sitting of the Assembly and a Bill to this effect was sent to Khan — which was the last that was heard of it. This further widened the rift between the Governor and the CM.

Then came the next issue when Khan shot off a strongly-worded letter to Kerala University asking for a senate member to be part of a search committee formed to select a new Vice-Chancellor.

Khan’s previous two letters on the same issue had not been responded to.

Khan became furious when he heard that a senate meeting called to discuss this issue could not take place due to shortage of the quorum needed for the meeting.

Khan as Chancellor withdrew 15 members who were all nominated members in the senate.

Soon after the Supreme Court set aside the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar had found that the search committee formed to pick the VC was not properly constituted and also that only one name was sent to the Governor as opposed to a list of names as is required as per the UGC regulations.

Latching on to it, Khan asked the Vice Chancellors of the University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University to quit.

With these VCs approaching the Kerala High Court, which agreed to hear their plea on Diwali day. After hearing the plea it held that the letter issued by the Governor, directing the VCs of nine state universities in Kerala to resign was no longer valid since the Governor himself later issued show cause notices to them.

The court, therefore, ruled that the VCs can continue in their posts till the Governor passes a final order after following the procedure under law.

These VCs have time till November 4 to reply and Khan is expected to return on that day after his North India trip.

Vijayan meanwhile has cautioned Khan against “misusing” his Chancellor’s post to exercise powers that are not vested in him and warned of strong public opposition to his “anti-democratic” actions.

Vijayan said these universities were highly rated in the country and that all the Vice-Chancellors have top qualifications matching the best in the industry.

“The Governor as Chancellor seems to be acting on behalf of some destructive forces who are bent on destroying the higher education sector of the state. He is not signing bills passed by the Assembly and this is anti-constitutional. The Governor is now a tool of the Sangh Parivar forces and if he continues like this he might have to face public ire. No one should think that a democratically elected government can be made redundant and rule the state from behind. The Governor will have to face strong opposition against it,” said Vijayan.

State BJP president K. Surendran then stepped in and warned the CPI-M leadership not to threaten the Governor who was discharging his responsibilities as the Chancellor of the universities and added that the Governor was not an orphan and that the BJP would extend support to him.

CPI-M state secretary M.V. Govindan said that on November 15 about one lakh people will protest against Khan here. This will be one of the biggest protests seen in the state.

Surendran hit back by reminding the CPI-M that no one should forget that Vijayan’s residence is only a stone’s throw from where Khan resides.

Meanwhile the principal opposition party, the Congress, has made it clear that it is not a party to what’s happening in the political space. Its state president K Sudhakaran said their role is to speak out and whosoever does wrong will be pulled up. At the moment, there are few areas where the Governor is right.

Now all eyes are on November 4 when Khan returns and goes through the replies of the VCs who have been served show cause notices.

20221030-130611

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here