When the then Governor of Tamil Nadu Banwarilal Purohit started conducting review meetings in districts, DMK President MK Stalin was up in arms.
In June 2018, DMK staged a black flag demonstration against Banwarilal Purohit in Namakkal and all those who took part in the demonstration were arrested. Stalin not only condemned the police action, but he himself took part in the agitation to picket Raj Bhavan and got arrested.
A war of words erupted between Stalin and Banwarilal Purohit following the issuance of a press release from Raj Bhavan warning stern action against those who try to immobilize the Governor by picketing him. The statement said, “the Governor would continue his visits to districts in the coming months and the Office of Governor was protected under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Any attempt to overawe or assault or use criminal force would be dealt with as per the law”
An unperturbed Stalin said, “the Governors of West Bengal or in Madhya Pradesh were not holding any review meetings at the district level. Claiming a right that was not in existence and issuing a statement on behalf of the Governor was against the principle of federalism.
Raj Bhavan condemned the usage of word “review” by Stalin and said, “it is an an attempt to mislead the people. He is either ignorant of the law or attempting to overawe by threatening to besiege Raj Bhavan or block the roads leading to the Raj Bhavan”
Stalin hit back. “If calling district officials for a meeting and deliberating on their programmes was not review then what is it?” said Stalin. He wondered, “why Raj Bhavan did not send any clarification to the media houses not to describe his meetings with district officials as “review meetings”.
Stalin thundered. Wherever the Governor goes. I will show black flag.
Ever since the President appointed RN Ravi, a former IPS officer as Governor of Tamil Nadu replacing Banwarilal Purohit, nervousness was palpable in the DMK. The approach of MK. Stalin after the swearing in of the new governor appears to be weak and toned down. The high decibel anti-BJP rhetoric seems to be muted.
When Tamil Nadu State’s Finance Minister PTR Thiagarajan failed to participate in the GST council meet, there were charges and counter charges from both sides. PTR justified his absence saying, he did not participate as there was lack of clarity on the agenda. Tensions were running high on both sides.
But there appears to be a topsy-turvy change in the attitude of the DMK with reference to its ‘supposed to be’ arch rival the BJP.
On 30 September 2021, when the Union Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman visited Chennai for an Income Tax department event, State Finance Minister PTR Thiagarajan called on her.
On first of October, State Municipal Administration Minister KN Nehru, met Union Jal Sakthi Minister Gajendra Singh Shekh. The reason attributed was to seek funds.
On 13 October 2021, State PWD Minister EV Velu met Union Surface Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari. Reason – to develop sea link between Chennai Port and Manali Road – Tiruvottriyur junction.
On 16th October 2021, TN Chief Minister MK Stalin met the Governor. The reason let out was to stress the Governor to approve TN bill for total exemption from NEET.
Highly placed sources say, the meeting was called by Governor Ravi following the complaint by State TN BJP about the deteriorating law and order situation and frequent communal murders. The next day Stalin met governor.
The reason let out by the government about the purpose of the meet with Governor appears to be incorrect.
It is exclusively learnt that, Governor expressed anguish about law and order situation apart from some critical national security issues. He has also asked the Chief Minister to direct his departmental secretaries to brief him independently about their respective departments with a power point presentation.
On 18 October 2021, one day after Stalin met the Governor, TN Chief Secretary Thiru.Irai Anbu has addressed his Secretaries to prepare a power point presentation to apprise the governor about ‘state and central welfare schemes’. (We had seen this letter).
The text of the letter reads as follows :
“Hon’ble Governor of Tamil Nadu wishes to know about the functioning of certain Departments in the State and its ongoing welfare schemes of both State as well as the Union Government.
I am to request you to be prepared to apprise the Hon’ble Governor about your Department’s ongoing welfare schemes of both State and the Union Government. The Power Point Presentation may also be prepared for the above said purpose. The Power Point prepared is to be discussed before the presentation. The date and time will be intimated soon”. (emphasis author’s).
Article 167 which describes “Duties of Chief Minister as respects the furnishing of information to Governor, etc” in clause (b) says this
“to furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the State and proposals for legislation as the Governor may call for”
It is to be clearly understood that this is given under the article “Duties of the Chief Minister”. This can in no way been understood as to Governor can summon any officer under the CM and ask for information. That would be an illogical explanation.
One may argue, what is wrong in Governor reviewing departments and asking for information. This would create a parallel power center was not imagined by our constitutional forefathers. The concluding argument by Dr Ambedkar on this issue during the Constituent assembly debates were these. “The first thing I would like the House to bear in mind is this. The Governor under the Constitution has no functions which he can discharge by himself: no functions at all…. Even under this article, the Governor is bound to accept the advice of the Ministry.”
At times, offence is the best defence. When the sanatana and right wing forces are trying to destroy Tamil identity and the government enjoys the overwhelming support of the state’s people, the DMK being the torch bearer of federalism, should take on the Governor against his interference into the state’s affairs. DMK is not only a political party but a movement which is part of the history of this state which has always fought for its rights.
A soft approach to this onslaught on the root of federal rights should be nipped in the bud. Any lackadaisical approach in this regard will have cascading effects. If the governor starts reviewing welfare schemes, what prevents him from reviewing law and order situation and issuing instructions to the state intelligence authorities citing national security ? If he is issuing instructions what is an elected Chief Minister for?
The Chief Ministers of Bengal and Maharashtra – Mamata Banerjee and Udhav Thackarey have taken a firm stand against the interference of Governors and shown the way. Our neibhour Comrade Pinarayi Vijayan too won’t tolerate such highhandedness by the Governor. Both Mamata and Udhav have written to the Union government against such interferences and have also conducted demonstrations.
DMK, which should have stood firm against such unwarranted interferences is succumbing meekly to the fascist pressure of the BJP which is perplexing.
Taking a leaf from his father’s long fight for federalism, Stalin should take a firm call the attempts for a proxy rule by the BJP backed by RSS.