AN “OFFICIAL but informal meeting” of government officials convened by Tamil Nadu’s new Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, in Coimbatore on Tuesday 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.
Politicians and officials in Tamil Nadu are mindful of the fact that Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi neighbouring Puducherry has already challenged the elected government on several policy and administrative decisions.
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 told The Indian Express 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 will attend more programmes in Coimbatore on Wednesday, overseeing 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 in development.”
Hariharan added that Purohit had worked in a similar manner 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.”
State Congress chief S Thirunavukkarasar said, “When we have an elected government, with a Chief Minister and ministers, the Governor need not to go to districts and meet officials.”
The CPI(M) and Dalit party VCK were among other parties that criticised Purohit’s decision to reportedly demand briefing from officials.
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. 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 to not 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.