by Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
November 16, 2017
Tamil Nadu governor’s action of talking directly to the officials has been criticized by political leaders in the state who argue Governor cannot do that as there is an elected government, MLAs, MPs, ministers, who would do that job and Governor should not have assumed the role assigned for the state government
Tamil Nadu’s newly appointed Governor Banwarilal Purohit seems to have departed from the usual practices of governors in India who just enjoy life at the great bungalows, attend important meetings, inaugurate conferences, etc., and sign the necessary documents.
Governor Purohit on November 14 held review meetings with top district officials in Coimbatore. However, this did not go down well with the opposition, with some politicians objecting to it. The Governor had arrived in Coimbatore to attend the convocation ceremony of Bharathiar University.
Later, in the day, he held meetings with the district officials, including the collector, city police commissioner and corporation commissioner and other senior officials. This has set off a debate over whether the Governor overstepped his Constitutional remit and was interfering in the affairs of the district administration.
Governor of a state is constitutional head of that state and the real ruler who governs the state with the help of an elected government. In fact, Governor appoints the cabinet with a team of ministers along with a CM to lead the government and reports to the Governor its performance on a regular basis. If the Governor is not satisfied with the performance of the government, he or she can take action to replace it with another ministry. Governor needs the approval of the federal government for any major change.
The informal meeting of government officials convened by Tamil Nadu’s new Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, in Coimbatore raised eyebrows, as the meeting was ostensibly meant to get a briefing on activities and governance in the district, usually not part of the Governor’s role. The meeting reportedly included Powerpoint presentations by Coimbatore District Collector T N Hariharan and about a dozen senior officials, inviting criticism from several opposition parties in the state.
Besides the collector, among the top officials in Tuesday’s meeting with Purohit were the Superintendent of Police, city police commissioner, senior Revenue, PWD, Highways and Health officials and the Coimbatore corporation commissioner, sources said.
A secretary in the government said that usually the collector and the SP meet the Governor during his/her visit to districts. “Such meetings may also include informal conversations about the district. But a Governor meeting officials and formally demanding a briefing or presentation is unusual,” the officer said.
While former Governors confined most of their meetings to the Raj Bhavan in Chennai, Purohit’s office said he would attend more programmes in Coimbatore on Wednesday, overseeing the progress of Swachh Bharat scheme in the district, among others.
Collector Hariharan said, “It was not a review meeting. He is a new Governor. Unless he knows about the district, he cannot contribute to development.” Hariharan added that Purohit had worked similarly during his earlier stints at Governors of Assam and Meghalaya. Asked whether the meeting was part of usual protocol and briefings formal, Hariharan said, “It was an official but informal meeting.”
Politicians and officials in Tamil Nadu are mindful of the fact that Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi neighboring Puducherry has already challenged the elected government on several policy and administrative decisions.
State Congress chief S Thirunavukkarasar said, “When we have an elected government, with a Chief Minister and ministers, the Governor need not go to districts and meet officials.” The CPI (M) and Dalit party VCK were among other parties that criticised Purohit’s decision to demand a briefing from officials reportedly.
Asked about Purohit’s approach, a senior jurist said that there is “nothing unusual” in a Governor meeting officials, as he is the head of the state.
Fringe political outfits like Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, led by its chief K Ramakrishnan, tried to hold a black flag demonstration and were removed by the police.
All opposition leaders have condemned the Governor’s action as ‘silly.’ Objecting to Governor Purohit’s meetings in Coimbatore, CPI (M) G Ramakrishnan said, “This only proves, yet again, that the government here is under the control of the BJP and is acting as its handmaiden.”
VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan said: “It is unconventional and unnecessary for the governor to intervene in administration. In Delhi and Puducherry, at least there is a justification for governors intervening in government administration since they are Union territories.” Congress functionary A Gopanna said: “As far as our constitutional scheme of things is concerned, the Governor, when he or she has any issue to take up with the State government, can get it done through the Council of Ministers. It would not be healthy for him to interfere in the functioning of the administration.”
But a senior IAS officer recalled that when he was the collector of Tindivanam, he received specific directions to ignore the visit of then Governor M Chenna Reddy, whose power tussles with the then J Jayalalithaa government were infamous. “We used to get directions from the government not to meet or listen to his (Chenna Reddy’s) instructions. I have never seen such a crisis after the tenure of Governor Reddy,” the IAS officer recalled.
A bureaucrat TNM spoke to said that it was an unusual move. Another said, “In the last few decades, TN Governors and Chief Ministers have had an amicable relationship. But I wonder if a CM like Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa would have allowed this?”. Another bureaucrat however disagreed. “The Governor is not familiar with the scenario in TN. Also, it is important that he is familiar with the bureaucracy. As long as he didn’t give them instructions on what to do, such a meeting is well within his rights,” the bureaucrat said.
DMK MP and organizing Secretary RS Bharati alleged that the BJP was trying to repeat in Tamil Nadu what it has done in other states while saying, “It is completely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, BJP state president Tamilisai Sounderajan defended the governor and said, “We should look at the meetings in a positive manner. Just because there is no precedent, it doesn’t stop a governor from meeting officials for the welfare of the state.”
Banwarilal Purohit is a public personality inseparably involved in social, political, educational and industrial fields of Vidarbha in Maharashtra.Purohit entered the area of politics in 1977. He had won Maharashtra Assembly election for the first time in 1978 from Nagpur east seat. Soon after, he was re-elected in 1980 from Nagpur south and became a minister in 1982. In 1984 and 1989, Purohit was elected to the Lok Sabha from Nagpur-Kamptee seat and was a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of Defence Ministry. He was re-elected from the Lok Sabha seat in 1996 and served as a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Home Affairs, Member of Standing Committee on Defence and Member of Public Sector Undertaking Committee. Switching between BJP and Congress, he was under criticism and had a difficult time, especially after 2000. He was appointed as the Governor of Assam in 2016, along with the additional charge of Meghalaya. Purohit is also credited with the revival of ‘The Hitavada,’ an English daily founded by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the mentor of Mahatma Gandhi. Under him ‘The Hitavada’ became a leading newspaper of central India, and apart from its headquarters edition at Nagpur, the daily also launched editions from Jabalpur, Raipur, and Bhopal.
As a full-time Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, who was appointed as TN governor when he was Governor of Assam, was expected to face the challenge of handling the volatile political situation in the state following the unexpected death of CM Jayalalithaa.
Divisions in the ruling AIADMK created problems for the former Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, but he handled well the delicate issue of putting a new government in office. He very tactfully denied Sasikala’s strenuous efforts to become the chief minister after managing the show of taking over the party. Many Party leaders have close financial links with her, and hence they supported her. Rao waited for the judgment of Supreme Court on the s disproportionate assets case, and his decision has been validated as Sasikala was sent to jail, instead of Madras Fort about which she possibly had been dreaming for years as Jayalalithaa was ill.
Later after Palanisamy was sworn to power as CM of Tamil Nadu, O. Pannerselvam also joined his government; there has been a demand from the opposition DMK and Dinakaran, an AIADMK rebel leader and nephew of jailed Sasikala to ask the Palanisamy to prove his majority n the assembly, but Governor Rao did not oblige them as he did not think Dinakaran and his supporting MLAs oppose the AIADMK government and that he is angry maybe because EPS had not made him a minister.
Dinakaran himself told reporters in Chennai he still believed that the Governor would take a “good” decision on the demand of the 19 MLAs owing allegiance to him on the removal of the Chief Minister. He said he was giving time for Palaniswamy to step down on his own.
Following the development, the DMK and other Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu accused the Governor of playing a “partisan” role and “passing the buck” by refusing to convene a meeting of the Assembly for the AIADMK government to prove its majority. They demanded a full-time Governor of the state. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh is believed to have told them that the issue was now within the ambit of “internal affairs” of the AIADMK and the Governor had nothing to do with it.
Reacting to the reported remarks of the Governor, DMK leader MK Stalin alleged that Rao was behind the coming together of the two factions of the AIADMK as he was acting at the behest of the Modi government which was using agencies like the Income Tax department and Enforcement Directorate to threaten AIADMK leaders. Stalin said the Governor was playing politics.
The BJP in Tamil Nadu vigorously defended the role of the Governor, saying opposition parties were trying to politicize the issue.
Tamil Nadu politicians should think beyond vote bank politics and consider the problems people face in the state and think about how to help the people. They must sympathetically consider the d efforts of Governor Purohit for the state and support him all through.
Clearly, TN Governor Purohit is an unusual governor who is eager to play his role in streamlining the state politics and policies of Tamil Nadu government. Possibly he aims at speed up administrative works and attacks corruption as Tamil Nadu is one of leading corrupt states in the country with a lot of poverty and illiteracy.
Hopefully, Tamil Nadu and India as a whole would benefit from Governor Purohit’s earnest efforts to help the Tamils.