THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The tussle between Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the state government escalated Wednesday as he asked CM Pinarayi Vijayan to take “constitutionally appropriate” action against finance minister KN Balagopal for his “seditious” comments aimed at insulting him and which amounts to challenging national integrity and stirring up provincialism. The CM dismissed Khan’s allegations and turned down the demand.
In a letter sent to the CM on Tuesday, the governor quoted news reports on Balagopal’s speech on October 18 on the Kariavattom university campus, where he said those coming from states like UP may not be able to understand the democratic functioning of universities in Kerala. He also said the vice chancellor of Banaras Hindu University was functioning with “50 to 100 security guards” when he visited the university as an MP.
Balagopal’s remarks, Khan said, sought to create a wedge between Kerala and the other states, besides creating a false impression on higher education in various states. He said Balagopal had breached his oath of office by making “seditious remarks” and hence no longer enjoyed the governor’s pleasure.
In his response, CM Vijayan said: “Viewed from a constitutional perspective, factoring in the democratic conventions and traditions of our country, the statement cannot warrant a ground for cessation of enjoyment of the Hon’ble Governor’s pleasure.”
Rejecting Khan’s demand, interpreted as a call to sack Balagopal, the CM wrote: “I hope that the Hon’ble Governor will appreciate that no further action needs to be taken in the matter.”
Reacting to Khan’s letter, CPM state secretary MV Govindan said the government is not engaged in a confrontation with the governor, but he wants to implement the RSS agenda in higher education. “The government will take appropriate steps at the appropriate time to deal with this situation legally and constitutionally.”
Time has come to think if Khan, the state’s governor since 2019, should be retained as chancellor of universities, Govindan said.
The LDF government and Khan have been engaged in a bitter duel lately over the appointment of university vice chancellors in the state. The governor had asked nine VCs to resign and asked two more on Tuesday to explain why their hiring shouldn’t be considered “illegal”. He cited a recent Supreme Court verdict that said VC appointments should strictly adhere to UGC rules, but anomalies were found in several cases for which he had sought action.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan criticised the governor’s demand to act against the minister, but called the fight between him and the government a “fake encounter”. “The governor has no powers and right to seek such a demand. The government should not even consider the letter from him,” he said. “We welcomed the decision to remove the VCs as they were appointed flouting rules. But the governor cannot run away from the responsibility of appointing them.”
Balagopal had delivered the speech after Khan threatened to withdraw his pleasure in ministers if they made remarks lowering the dignity of the governor’s office. Khan said in his letter that he ignored the attack by the higher education minister and the law minister at the personal level, but it would be a grave omission of duty on his part if did not take cognisance of the “seditious remarks” of the finance minister.