As Telangana has entered its election year, relations between Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government have remained cold and likely to deteriorate as the polls approach.
The discord between the two sides appears to be an extension of the feud between the BRS government in the state and the BJP-led government at the Centre in the backdrop of the saffron party’s aggressive pitch to come to power in Telangana.
The friction between the Governor and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has reached a point of no return which was evident once again late last month when the latter skipped a dinner hosted by her for President Droupadi Murmu.
KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, was present along with the Governor to welcome the President on her arrival for southern sojourn but did not go to the Raj Bhavan.
Tamilisai has been critical of KCR for not accepting her invitations for the programmes at Raj Bhavan and she considers this as a humiliation.
In November 2022, the relations between the Governor and the government hit a new low when Tamilisai said that she suspected her phone was being tapped and alleged that an undemocratic situation is prevailing in the state
“I’m afraid my phone is tapped. My privacy is being infringed,” she had said while slamming BRS for dragging Raj Bhavan into the alleged attempt to poach BRS MLAs.
The Governor referred to the mention of Raj Bhavan in the tweets from the official handle of BRS.
“They mentioned Tushar. He was my ADC. Tushar was calling me for two days to wish me Deepavali. Only after that they mentioned Tushar’s name,” she said.
She was apparently referring to Tushar Vellapally, who contested the Lok Sabha elections against Rahul Gandhi in Kerala’s Wayanad on a BJP ticket in 2019.
Tushar and BJP general secretary B.L. Santosh were among four persons who were issued notices by Telangana’s Special Investigation Agency (SIT), which probed the case before the high court transferred it to the CBI.
The Governor also drew the ire of the ruling party for is sitting on bills sent to Raj Bhavan including Telangana Universities Common Recruitment Board Bill, 2022.
Denying the allegation, she said she wanted some clarifications from the state government on the new procedure to be adopted for appointment of vice-chancellors of universities. She claimed that as a chancellor of universities, she has every right to seek clarifications.
Tamilisai also reiterated the allegation that the Governor’s protocol was not being followed during her visit to the district.
She wanted to know from the government what action it had taken against collectors and superintendents of police who were not following the protocol.
At a programme organised at the Raj Bhavan to mark the Constitutional Day, she called for respecting the Constitutional offices. She remarked that acceptance and adherence to the Constitutional values and respecting the Constitutional offices cannot be selective.
Tamilisai had been targeting KCR and his government for not giving her respect and not following the protocol.
In recent weeks, the Governor minced no words in attacking the Chief Minister. She remarked that her visit to flood-hit Bhadrachalam forced the Chief Minister, who was sleeping in his bungalow, to rush to the temple town.
“There was criticism as to what I could do in Bhadrachalam. This governor had the talent to bring out the Chief Minister, who was sleeping in that bungalow with sprawling gardens till that time,” she said referring to her visit to the flooded temple town in July.
Her comments echoed the often repeated jab by the BJP leaders that KCR confines himself to his farmhouse.
She recalled that she reached Bhadrachalam by train while the Chief Minister, who flew by air, reached five hours later.
Deputy Speaker of Telangana Assembly, T. Padma Rao Goud targeted the Governor for not clearing the files sent by the government for her approval.
“The government takes many decisions for the welfare of the people and development of the state but the files pertaining to these are being delayed. She is governor of Telangana and not governor some other country like Pakistan,” the TRS leader remarked.
The relations between the governor and the state government have never been so strained since the formation of Telangana state eight years ago and even in last four decades in the united Andhra Pradesh.
Tamilisai, a former BJP leader in Tamil Nadu, was appointed as Telangana Governor in 2019, the TRS was reportedly miffed over the Centre not consulting it before the appointment.
Initially the relations were cordial between the governor and the state government and the friction began when Tamilisai visited a few hospitals during Covid-19 pandemic.
The TRS government was irked by her remarks over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Eyebrows were raised in political circles when Tamilisai, who is also a physician, called meetings of officials over Covid situation. The ruling party felt that the governor was overstepping her powers.
The ties between Pragati Bhavan (the official residence of KCR) and Raj Bhavan (the official residence of Governor) turned sour in 2021 when the governor did not approve the state Cabinet’s recommendation to appoint P. Kaushik Reddy as member of state Legislative Council under the governor’s quota.
She had told the media that since the nominated post falls in the category of social service, she was trying to get information about Kaushik Reddy’s social service works.
The TRS government later had to send Reddy to the upper House of the state Legislature under MLA quota.
In the meantime, KCR had also changed his policy and turned a bitter critic of the BJP-led government at the Centre. Political analysts say this added to the discord.
The Chief Minister and ministers had also not attended Republic Day celebrations at Raj Bhavan.
The differences deepened further after the state government last year commenced budget session of the State Legislature without customary address of the governor. She took exception to this.
However, the government argued that there was no need for the governor’s address as it was not a new session but continuation of the previous session.
The governor was also not invited for the reopening of Yadadri temple. The Chief Minister had attended the rituals to mark the reopening of the temple after renovation.
She was also not invited to Medaram Jatra, the tribal fair held in February. She visited Medaram but she alleged that the state government did not follow the protocol.
On completion of three years in office in September, she alleged that the governor was being humiliated. She said that the state government is discriminating against a woman governor by not following the protocol.
“It will go down in the history of Telangana, how a woman governor was treated,” she said.
She alleged that the state government denied her an opportunity to hoist the national flag at the Republic Day parade. She said she was told to hoist the flag in Raj Bhavan citing Covid-19 protocols. She wondered why this restriction was imposed only in Telangana when all the states held Republic Day parades.
She also claimed that when her office approached the state government for the speech, it was not provided. She defended delivering her own speech on the occasion.
“You are not giving the speech means should I shut my mouth. Don’t I have a right to talk? Should I read what they give on Republic Day,” she asked.
The TRS leaders hit back at Tamilisai. Ruling party legislator and KCR’s daughter K. Kavitha remarked the office of Telangana governor has turned into a political stage that is determined to defame the TRS government and KCR.
State minister and KCR’s son K.T. Rama Rao attacked her for what he called indulging in political speech. “You can’t have dual role. You can’t be Telangana BJP leader and at the same time a governor. You have to choose one,” he said.
“Is it okay for the governor to say that if I had kept the file with me for 15 days the government would have collapsed. Can a governor talk like this, indulge in political speech and say I could have dethroned the government. Is it fair,” he asked.
He pointed out that the governor is an institution. “It is a titular position and not a democratically elected position. She is nominated by the central government,” he said