Governor-CM spats not new to Kerala, but this one is really bitter

Khan vs Vijayan duel is a reprise of a skirmish between governor and CM 30 years ago

Kochi: The current spat between governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Left Front government in Kerala got worse Saturday with speaker P Sreeramakrishnan joining the bandwagon of ruling party members bristling at his open interference in government matters.

“The democratic government elected by the people is the real centre of power and a state should not have two centres of power as it will create a constitutional crisis,” the speaker said.

If the current trend is any indication, the conflict between Arif Mohammad Khan and the Left Front government over the latter’s opposition to the Citizenship Act (CAA) is likely to get even worse. Though law minister A K Balan did try to tone down the tiff saying there are no issues, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself minced no words while attacking Khan.

Yet this is not the first time that Kerala is witnessing an open fight between the elected government and the Union government’s representative in Thiruvananthapuram.

Thirty years ago, from 1988 to 1990, the state witnessed an open and fierce fight between the then governor Ram Dulari Sinha, a Congress nominee, and the then chief minister E K Nayanar, also of the CPM.

Back then, the Assembly even passed a special motion against the governor after she refused to sign an ordinance and made arbitrary nominations to the senate of Calicut University. The fight went into the streets with leaders of the CPM-affiliated Students Federation of India marching to Raj Bhavan in protest.

The current warfare between Khan and Vijayan, however, is remarkable for the bitterness of the exchanges.

The differences of opinion started with Khan’s take on the CAA with both ruling party and opposition members coming together to vent against him. Khan also had to face strong protest from delegates and political party workers at the History Congress in Kannur last month.

But the volleys became more vociferous after the chief minister suggested to Khan that he should make time to read the Constitution and reminded him that the British-era Resident’s rule of yesteryears was no more prevailing in the country.

Khan, a Muslim leader whose views on minorities jell well with the saffronistas, went ballistic in response. “No one is above the law, including me, but the chief minister should realise that there is no colonial rule in the country,” he retorted. He also criticised the government for wasting public money to convene a special Assembly session to pass resolution to oppose the CAA.

Non-BJP party leaders lost no time in reminding the governor that he was exceeding his brief. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said Khan ought not to behave like a partisan political leader and participate in TV channel discussions.

CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said the powers of the governor have been clearly specified in the Constitution and Khan should not presume that he has more powers than are laid down.

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