In Tamil Nadu, Raj Bhavan wades into controversy

Tamil Nadu governor threatens criminal action against anyone disturbing him and his work in districts. The opposition party, DMK and its working president MK Stalin said they will dare the governor to walk the talk; say they will continue to protest “his interference” in governance, writes KV Lakshmana

Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit’s working style is seen as aggressive

Inexplicable is the word from political analysts unable to figure out Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit’s aggressive posture and threats of getting anyone thwarting his work, including holding review meetings with district officials. If not anything, his threats have only given more ammunition to the principal opposition party, the DMK to retaliate with equal and opposite aggression.

“At best the governor is a glorified rubber stamp,” dismissed DMK spokesperson A Saravanan and said someone was either misguiding the governor or the governor himself was misinterpreting the law. The governor’s role in the state ends with the government formation and has no role in governance, which is the exclusive purview of the elected government. The governor has no business to interfere in governance and work of the elected government, asserted Sarvanan echoing DMK working president MK Stalin’s strong views on the issue.

“We are speaking for the Tamil Nadu government,” Stalin had said before walking out of the Tamil Nadu assembly where he sought to raise the issue of governor’s repeated visits to different districts and the review meetings he was holding with district officials directly.

“This is clear interference in governance but the AIADMK government here has no guts to say anything to the governor or to the BJP-led central government,” Saravanan said.

“We will continue to hold black flag demonstrations and other forms of protests if the governor continues with his review meetings,” Saravanan declared wondering as to why the governor was insisting on doing something that is against all conventions and established norms. The people of Tamil Nadu are watching and by doing what the governor is doing he is only adding to the people’s ire as he is seen as the representative of a government that “worked against the interests of Tamil Nadu.”

Which is why political analysts are perplexed over the aggressively combative stance of governor Purohit. The Raj Bhavan in Chennai had come out with a tough statement that “any attempt to overawe or assault or use criminal force would be dealt with per the law.” The Office of the governor was protected under Section 124 of IPC.

The Raj Bhavan statement said: “whoever, with the intention of inducing or compelling the President of India, or the Governor of any State, to exercise or refrain from exercising in any manner any of the lawful powers of such President or Governor, assaults or wrongfully restrains, or attempts wrongfully to restrain, or overawes, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, or attempts so to overawe, such President or Governor, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Political analyst Suman C Raman said he found the governor’s actions inexplicable but it was clear that he was acting at the behest of the central government. “But to what purpose,” as it is a docile government in office in Tamil Nadu that is doing the bidding of the Modi government. The governor’s actions and his threats are only making him unpopular and by extension, the central government and the BJP. So, one does not really know why the governor is doing what he is doing, Raman said.

But perhaps to nullify the perception that it was sucking up to the Central government and the BJP, the Tamil Nadu government has sought to block the Dams Safety Bill, duly cleared by the union cabinet. Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami piloted a resolution asking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep the bill in abeyance till a consensus was evolved over the issue by consultations with all the state governments.

The EPS-OPS government also had to publicly take a stand on this because of the strong stand Amma, former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa took. She was dead against the Bill that would require TN government to give up control over its own Dams located in Kerala.
On the governor’s insistence and threats, Raman felt that the BJP was neither helping itself nor the AIDMK. “The BJP knows it cannot win from Tamil Nadu. As the best-case scenario, it would like the party that wins from the state to support it in the Lok Sabha after the general elections during government formation,” he said.

When viewed thus, the governor’s actions are surely foxing. The BJP local leaders are forced to support the governor but privately wonder whether this will do any good for the party.