CHENNAI: A long-simmering saga of disagreements between the ruling dispensation in Tamil Nadu and Governor RN Ravi came to a head this week after the DMK and its allies submitted a memorandum addressed to President Droupadi Murmu, demanding the immediate recall of the Governor. The nine-page memorandum signed by 46 of the 50 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs from the DMK and allies charged him of violating the oath and thus ‘unfit to hold the constitutional office’.
Citing the 20 Bills that are awaiting his assent, including the Prohibition of Online Gambling and Online Regulation of Games Bill, and his statements that allegedly would spur disaffection towards the democratically elected government, the ruling alliance likened the Governor to an agent of the Union seeking to run down the State government.
Governor Ravi had ruffled a few feathers with his remarks on Sanatana Dharma, Thirukkural, and more potently, Tamil pride and Dravidian heritage. One of the major pain points for the DMK and its allies was the manner in which he ‘openly contradicted the State government’s policy in public and unduly delayed assent to Bills’.
The NEET exemption Bill is an emotive subject in Tamil Nadu, which has witnessed several deaths by suicide in the past few years. Many have argued that it puts government school students at a disadvantage compared to those educated under CBSE. On many occasions, the Governor has also expressed his support for the three-language policy advocated by the National Education Policy, which has rubbed many the wrong way.
Such flashpoints between the party in power and the Governor have precedents. In 1995, when AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister, the Assembly passed a resolution demanding the recall of Governor M Chenna Reddy. Nearly a decade later in 2004, Governor PS Ramamohan Rao chose to step down after the Supreme Court struck down the Jayalalithaa government’s plea against his transfer.
The clash between the ruling party and Raj Bhavan is not limited to Tamil Nadu alone. Kerala is also witnessing skirmishes between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the latest over the appointments of Vice-Chancellors in State universities. The Cabinet there has decided to bring in an Ordinance to remove Khan as the Chancellor of universities.
As per the Constitution, the Governor can hold office at the pleasure of the President, and the appointment is for five years. As the President acts in consultation with the Union government, governors are effectively appointed, transferred, or removed by the Centre. Like in the case of the President, the role of a Governor is seemingly limited to that of a figurehead.
Political observers believe that the issue could have been resolved in the old-fashioned way of sitting across a table and arriving at a consensus. In fact, it is only expected that most healthy democracies will leave room for disagreements. Unnecessary provocations in the form of statements that would rile up an elected government would only dent the political framework of the State. The endgame of governance is to serve the interests of the people of the State, not enter into unwarranted squabbles.