Kerala Governor ups offensive against LDF govt, says it is stifling dissent

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Thiruvananthapuram: Escalating his offensive against the Left front government, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday accused the State of silencing voices of dissent, including that of the Raj Bhavan.

Khan launched an allout attack against the ruling LDF over issues including his alleged heckling at a varsity in 2019, functioning of the universities in the State and the State's revenue generation largely dependent on lottery and liquor sales.

At a news conference here, Khan shared with the media video-clippings of him being allegedly heckled at the Kannur University event in 2019 and some correspondence with the government over the functioning of varsities.

Khan, whose outburst came in the wake of the Assembly recently passing a Bill apparently aimed at curtailing his powers as Chancellor of universities, charged the State with silencing differing voices and claimed the Raj Bhavan was not spared as well.

He alleged that certain ideologies which originated from outside India, in an apparent reference to the ruling Left front's Communist ideology, believes in use of force "to silence dissent, difference of opinion and liquidate those who they consider their class enemies."

He claimed that the pressure tactics of the State government were aimed at forcing him to sign the University Laws and Lok Ayukta Amendment Bills and as soon as gives his assent, the "relations will be normalised immediately."

"So you can apply pressure tactics and I cannot take a stand on them? Please don't play these games with me. I have seen enough. If I sign the Bills, they will commit illegalities and then ask me to endorse the same. I cannot allow that. If they pass a Bill to take over the powers of the Chancellor, I will sign that. But while I am Chancellor, I cannot sign the illegalities they commit," he said.

He alleged that he has noticed that the personal secretaries of the Ministers were running the affairs of the government.

The Governor, however, said that despite the pressure tactics against him by the State government there was no Constitutional crisis in Kerala. He was responding to a question on whether he has any plan to invoke Article 356 (President's rule) in the State in the prevailing situation.

Khan, sharing videos of the incident on two wide screens set up at the Raj Bhavan auditorium, said a senior functionary who is now in the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) can be seen in the visuals preventing the police from discharging their duties.

He was referring to K K Ragesh, private secretary to the Chief Minister, and also hit out at historian Irfan Habib in the context of the 2019 incident.

"In a State where people are arrested for wearing black shirts, these things happen. The police personnel tried to control the situation and stopped the people from reaching me," he said.

A senior functionary, who is in the Chief Minister's Office, can be seen in the video preventing police from discharging their functions," he said.

"Ragesh stopped the police from doing their duty. Possibly that is why he has been rewarded," the Governor added. Ragesh was a Rajya Sabha member then.

Khan also asked if the protest at Kannur University was spontaneous, why did some of them come prepared with placards.

He further alleged that the government tried to interfere in the functioning of the Raj Bhavan by questioning appointments to his staff and therefore, he took action against the same.

They had to eat humble pie. I knew the man (government official who wrote a letter questioning the appointment) was innocent. But I wanted to send a message that these pressure tactics will not work on me. Even that has not opened their eyes.

"The pressure tactics are continuing even now. That and other reasons prompted me to raise the issue now," the Governor said.

Khan said the State government cannot curtail his powers as it was he who administered the oath of office to them and not the other way round. In his vehement attack on the Kerala government, Khan said it was a shame the sources of revenue of the State were primarily based on lottery and alcohol sales.

"Lottery and alcohol are our main sources of revenue. What a shame. Instead of doing anything for the people, like developing infrastructure, building roads or improving our tourism, their attention is focused on silencing those who differ with them. They are not even ready to spare the Raj Bhavan," Khan said.

He raked up the alleged political killings in Kannur, Chief Minister Vijayan's home turf, to target the CPI(M)-led LDF government. He said the number of political killings in the State are an indication of such an ideology which permits use of force against opponents.

It was also evident from the conduct of an LDF convener who is barred from flying on an airliner for attacking two persons on a plane, from the "thrashing of the Constitution by a now former minister" and from the language of Pakistan used by another former minister, Khan said.

"Irfan Habib is the icon of the ideology which believes in use of force against those holding a different view. If they can attack people inside a plane, what is so surprising if they try to attack me on the stage," Khan said.

"Being elected representatives of the people means you have to uphold the law and not break it, he said and alleged that every rule was bent to appoint the wife of the personal secretary of Vijayan as an associate professor in the Malayalam department of Kannur University as she did not have the requisite teaching experience," he said.


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