Editorial: Gubernatorial gaslighting
In what appears to be a widening of the ideological chasm separating the Governor and the government of Tamil Nadu, the State assembly witnessed a showdown on Monday, which was unprecedented in recent political memory. Governor RN Ravi broke a constitutional convention by deviating from the prepared speech and abruptly walking out of the assembly. His annoyance was in reaction to Chief Minister MK Stalin disapproving of Ravi’s selective deviation from the approved text of the Governor’s address to the House, and the CM moving a resolution to place on record only the transcript distributed to the members.
The Governor’s omission is being viewed as a one-of-a-kind incident in Tamil Nadu, when a figurehead or gubernatorial head of State appointed by the President chose to defy convention and ‘doctor’ the speech put together by elected representatives of the State. Members of the legal fraternity pointed out that a Governor is not permitted to act without the concurrence or advice of the council of ministers. The prepared speech, in this case, is a representation of the council’s advice. ers have also questioned whether the President of India can alter or edit a note compiled by the Union government? It’s the same logic that applies to the Governor of a State who cannot prepare his own speech for the Assembly.
While Ravi’s disruptive action appears to be a first for the assembly here, our neighbour Kerala has witnessed such deviations at least thrice since 1969. Back in the late 60s, Governor V Viswanathan had desisted from reading references that were critical of the Centre, in the assembly. When CM EMS Namboodiripad drew the Governor’s attention to the omission, the latter retorted by reminding the CM that this omission had been intimated before. Similar incidents transpired in 2001 during the reign of AK Antony as CM, and in 2018, during CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s stint.
Regarding the fracas on Monday, Congress and Left parties leaders had called out the Governor for acting at the behest of those who appointed him. Some of them even went so far to say that the Governor must be recalled immediately as his position has become untenable, while adding that the post of the Governor itself must be abolished so as to end the interference of the Union government.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time that Ravi has rubbed the ruling dispensation the wrong way. The first assembly session of this year was being conducted against the backdrop of pendency of Bills that had been passed by the State assembly, and were being blockaded by Governor Ravi. Another sore point is the Ravi’s insistence that the State can be called Tamizhagam instead of Tamil Nadu, which was incidentally what Madras State was rechristened as when the DMK captured power in 1967. What really emerged as the fulcrum of friction between the TN government and the Governor are the diametrically opposed stances on NEET, the National Education Policy, especially the clause regarding the introduction of the three language policy, and a Bill pending with the Raj Bhavan on prohibition of online gambling.
Such instances of the Governor locking horns with the ruling party time and again, does not bode well for democracy, or the welfare of the State in general. The assembly is a sacrosanct space and critical to the functioning of the State’s political engine. Needless deviations will only be a waste of the time and resources necessary to keep the State functioning in top shape.