Updated: April 18, 2022 10:10:16 pm
On April 14, the DMK-led Tamil Nadu government boycotted events organised by Governor R N Ravi to protest against the alleged delay on his part in clearing several cabinet recommendations and a dozen Bills passed by the state Assembly, including a crucial one seeking the abolition of the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) for medical admissions, and the release of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
On Saturday, two days after boycotting Raj Bhavan events, DMK mouthpiece Murasoli said in its editorial, “Seems like Governor Ravi is bent on spoiling wherever is left of the BJP’s vote base in Tamil Nadu… Instead of serving his constitutional responsibilities, Governor Ravi is playing unwarranted politics in Tamil Nadu… Looks like he has decided to play the additional role of Tamil Nadu BJP chief too.”
The latest charge against the Governor, of being partial to the BJP, is a new twist to the ties between the DMK government and the Governor that had until now been shorn of the public rancour that has marred such relationships elsewhere in the country.
A former IPS officer, Ravi has previously been Governor of Meghalaya and Nagaland. After his retirement from service in 2012, he served as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and was later Deputy National Security Advisor of India. But his most high-profile assignment so far was as the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.
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In August 2015, the NSCN(IM) signed a framework agreement with the Centre for the Naga Peace Accord and Ravi was appointed interlocutor to take the talks to their conclusion. While both the government and the Naga groups said the talks successfully concluded on the government’s deadline of October 31, 2019, no accord was signed, and relations between Ravi and the NSCN(IM) unravelled.
Earlier this week, the NSCN-IM again blamed Ravi for the talks going off track. “Ravi threatened NSCN with dire consequences and declared that with or without NSCN, an agreement has to be signed on or before (the deadline of) 31st October, 2019,” the NSCN statement said. It also accused Ravi of putting pressure on the outfit and the Naga people using “psychological warfare”.
As Ravi came to Tamil Nadu in the backdrop of the bitterness of the Naga talks, critics said his allegedly confrontational nature wouldn’t go well with the constitutional post he was to hold as Governor.
However, until now, the differences hadn’t spilled out into the open, with DMK sources saying this was only because the government has been “accommodative and patient” in dealing with some of the issues.
They point to how, a month after taking charge, Ravi’s demand for state departments to submit presentations on the implementation of schemes kicked up a controversy. While the Congress and other parties raised strong objections, state Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu stepped in to play down the controversy, calling the Governor’s order “routine communication”.
On the eve of the last Republic Day, he took a stand that was not seen to be in line with the government’s position, saying NEET had resulted in an improvement in the representation of government schools in medical admissions, and that there was an urgent need to improve the quality of education in government schools. Ravi’s remarks, which came at a time when he was yet to clear the anti-NEET Bill that had been passed unanimously by the state Assembly, raised eyebrows.
In his speech then, Ravi had also said, “Depriving our students of knowledge of other Indian languages is unfair to all.” This remark, seen as a dig at Tamil Nadu’s two-language policy, wasn’t received well in political circles.
In an editorial, Murasoli, referring to Ravi’s IPS background and his stint in Nagaland, wrote, “This is not Nagaland, but Tamil Nadu… Perhaps intimidating tactics are required for the police department and may be helpful for many occasions. But in politics, he should realise that such tactics will not help him achieve anything”.
Raj Bhawan’s alleged delay in one of the long-pending matters — the remission matter of the Rajiv Gandhi case convicts – has in the past elicited warnings from the High Court and Supreme Court.
Hearing a plea about the alleged undue delay on the part of the Governor in the case, the Madras High Court, in July 2020, said the Governor cannot sit on the state government’s recommendation for so long. The court said that there is no time-limit prescribed for the Governor to decide on such issues only “because of the faith and trust attached to the constitutional post”. The court added “…if such authority fails to decide in a reasonable time, then the court will be constrained to interfere”.
In the same case, the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure in February 2021, forcing the Government counsel to promise a decision without any further delay. The Governor’s office had then forwarded the remission files of the seven convicts to President Ram Nath Kovind for his decision.
Senior jurists, including Justice (retired) K T Thomas, who was part of the three-bench Supreme Court bench that given the 1999 verdict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, termed the delay “illegal” and said the Governor was not “fulfilling his responsibilities” despite a Supreme Court clarification saying he was “deemed fit” to take a call in the matter.
Similar tussles between the state and the Raj Bhavan may, however, not be new for Tamil Nadu.
In 2017, political parties opposed Ravi’s predecessor Banwarilal Purohit when he started visiting districts in a bid to review government schemes.
But the most bitter of these clashes were between M Channa Reddy and the late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa during her first term as CM.
If it began with the AIADMK calling him a “Super Chief Minister” for demanding a briefing of law and order from the Chief Secretary during a by-poll, Reddy’s decision to reject the name of a candidate for Madras University’s Vice-Chancellor post worsened the relationship. Thereafter, in 1994 and 1995, Jayalalithaa boycotted events organised by the Governor, including tea parties on Republic Day and Independence Day.
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