Congress-led UDF is pressing for the adoption of a resolution in the state Assembly, demanding recall of the Governor.
New Delhi: Even as Kerala’s ruling Left Front has softened its stand against Governor Arif Mohammad Khan over his views on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the opposition Congress has upped the ante on his recall. The Congress-led United Democratic Front is pressing for the adoption of a resolution in the state Assembly, as was the case with CAA, demanding recall of the Governor, a move not supported by the ruling LF. The UDF contends that the Governor still holds the view that the state Assembly has no right to pass a resolution against a Central Act passed by Parliament and has deemed it unconstitutional. However, in the light of the Governor reading out the government’s policy statement, though with a difference from practice, the Left government doesn’t want to pursue a confrontationist attitude with Khan. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seems to be happy that the Governor obliged him and read the contentious paragraph on CAA, rather than skip it, as is the usual practice. But the Governor did go one step further by rubbing it to the Chief Minister on the floor of the House that he disagreed with his government’s stand on CAA, which some Constitutional experts point out as a departure from practice. Arif M. Khan, while presenting the state government’s vision document in the Assembly on Wednesday, had said that “I am going to read this para (mentioning the anti-CAA resolution) because the honourable Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) wants me to read this, although I hold the view that this does not come under the definition of the policy or programme”. The contentious paragraph 18 read: “Citizenship can never be on the basis of religion, as this goes against the grain of secularism which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.” On 31 December, Kerala became the first state to pass a resolution demanding abrogation of CAA and it also moved the Supreme Court against the Act. Khan had termed the resolution as unconstitutional and had strongly objected to the state government approaching the top court without seeking prior permission from him. This had led to an open spat between the Governor and his government, with the ruling CPM even accusing Khan of acting as “non-existent BJP state president”. The state unit of the BJP is currently without a president and Arif M. Khan was a member of that party.
On Friday, the business advisory committee of the Legislative Assembly rejected the notice by the Congress-led opposition for moving a resolution to be sent to the President of India to remove Arif Mohammad Khan from the post of Governor. Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala on Saturday last had given the notice to the Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan, who had then admitted that the notice was in order and the final decision would vest with the business advisory committee. However, at the committee, while the opposition stood their ground, the government side did not show any inclination to go ahead with the resolution. State Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, A.K. Balan said that his government did not want to set a new precedent and hence the motion by the opposition would not be moved. For one, Balan was wrong on precedent. In 1969, the then E.M.S. Namboodiripad-led communist government in the state had passed a resolution against the then West Bengal Governor Dharma Vira for leaving out certain portions from the policy statement. Then again in 1989, another communist government led by the late E.K. Nayanar had adopted a resolution against the then Governor Ram Dulari Sinha over some of her decisions regarding postings in Kerala and Calicut varsities. “I had given the past precedence but it was not looked into. We will again raise this issue when the action by the business advisory committee is presented in the house,” Chennithala said. Charging the CPM with double standards, Chennithala said on the one hand it criticises the Centre and passes a resolution against the CAA and on the other, it shows intolerance when the Opposition moves a resolution seeking to recall the Governor. “The Chief Minister should also break his silence on the matter and the people cannot be blamed if they think that there is a tacit understanding between him and the Governor going by the latter’s Republic Day speech. He was profusely praising the Chief Minister at a time when the opposition has a lot of disagreements with the policies of the state government. The people can smell a rat in the gestures of the CM and Governor,” he said. Chennithala was hinting at an alleged understanding between Vijayan and the Central government to go slow on a CBI probe into the 1995 SNC-Lavalin Kerala hydroelectric scandal in which the Chief Minster’s name figures prominently. The CBI has been dragging its feet in the case for quite some time now.
Whatever be the reason, CPM has been blowing hot and cold with the Governor. The party has singularly gained politically by passing the resolution against CAA, though Congress had initiated the move first. The big turnout of Muslims in the 650km human chain protest organised by the Left Front on Republic Day against CAA is an indication of this. In the general elections, the community had solidly backed Congress and the UDF. There seems to be a shift in allegiance now, much to the worry of state Congress leaders. Assembly elections to the state are just one year away and wholesome support of the minority community, which accounts for over 27% of the population, is vital for both communists and Congress. Governor Arif Mohammad Khan is just one pawn on that political chess board.