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The stage is set for a collision course between Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit, and the opposition party, DMK, in Tamil Nadu following the DMK black-flag protests and the statement war between the Raj Bhavan and DMK working president M K Stalin.

While the Raj Bhavan has warned of seven-year jail term to the protesters, Stalin has retorted that he was prepared for life imprisonment and not just a seven-year term in the struggle for State autonomy.

Purohit has been courting controversy ever since he took up the post at Raj Bhavan in Chennai. His tactic of holding district-level reviews of government functioning with the Collectors and police officials has evoked widespread criticism from almost all the parties barring the BJP to which the Governor belongs, and the ruling AIADMK in the State which thrives on BJP patronage.

The DMK announced black-flag protests by its members in front of venues of such review meetings, and this was met with arrests by the State police in several districts.

Things have taken an ugly turn with a Raj Bhavan statement on June 24, 2018, warning of legal action against any attempt to lay siege to its campus. The statement said that the DMK leader M K Stalin and other parties opposing the Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s meetings in various districts should realize that the office of the Governor was protected under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code and “any attempt to overawe or assault or use criminal force will be dealt with as per the law.” The provocation was the latest black-flag protest by DMK members against Purohit in Chennai.

Section 124 of the IPC provided for punishment including imprisonment of up to seven years to those attempting to restrain the President of India or the Governor of any State from exercising his or her lawful powers, the Raj Bhavan has pointed out.

However, this statement has been widely criticized by various opposition including Stalin charging the Raj Bhavan with adopting an “intimidating” tone.

“The Governor has sought to play direct politics by going beyond and against the Constitution, Stalin has warned, indicating that the DMK would continue and intensify its protests.

The DMK’s main opposition to the present Governor is what they call his assault on State autonomy which is held dear by the party. The DMK believes that the administration can and should be dealt with only by the cabinet and its ministers, and not by the Governor who was just a figure head.

The DMK had always opposed the post of Governor but said it would respect the post as long as it was provided for in the Constitution.

The DMK founder and former chief minister C N Annadurai had led the DMK taunt in the 1950s and 1960s that there was no need for a beard for a goat, nor was there need for the post of a Governor (Aatukku Dhaadi Edharku, Naattukku Aalunar Edharku).

In fact, the DMK had suffered at the hands of the Governor and the Union Home ministry on several occasions in the past. The DMK government was dismissed in 1976 and 1991. K K Shah was asked to give a report against the DMK government though just a day before he had, at a public function, praised the state government for its performance.

Surjit Singh Barnala was asked to give a report recommending dismissal of the DMK government in 1991 but he refused.

The AIADMK too had its period of a turbulent relationship with a Governor, M Chenna Reddy, who accorded sanction to prosecute chief minister Jayalalithaa on the basis of a petition filed by Subramanian Swamy. Jayalalithaa had even charged that he had misbehaved with her.

Otherwise, MGR and Jayalalithaa had Governors who co-operated with them. The AIADMK governments had a very cosy relationship with the Governors, particularly S L Khurana who helped an ailing MGR form the government in 1984 after completing his treatment in the US. K Rosaiah and Rammohan Rao, both from Andhra Pradesh, were extremely supportive of the AIADMK government.

The AIADMK governments had a very cosy relationship with the Governors, particularly S L Khurana who helped an ailing MGR form the government in 1984 after completing his treatment in the US.  

Fatheema Beevi ignored the views of the DMK and installed J Jayalalithaa as chief minister in 2001 though she could not contest elections. Some months later, the BJP government at the Centre, under pressure from its ally, asked Jayalalithaa to resign and O Panneerselvam took over the mantle. Fatheema Beevi was asked to resign following reports of corruption charges.

Vidyasagar Rao, Purohit’s predecessor, was also charged by the DMK with going out of the way to protect the ‘minority’ AIADMK government and not allowing a confidence vote in the Assembly when the numbers seemed to be stacked against the ruling AIADMK.

The DMK has been reiterating that the BJP government at the Centre was keen on keeping the AIADMK in power for its own political and vested interests. For the DMK it has come agonisingly close to forming the government, trailing behind the AIADMK by just a few seats. However, the internal dissensions in the AIADMK have kept the government on tenterhooks and also the main opposition party, the DMK, interested. For the DMK it is a case of so near and yet so far. The frustrated party believes that the AIADMK government is surviving on Raj Bhavan support, and that the latter is working as an agent of the Centre. Charges and counter charges apart, the State is poised for a bitter struggle between the Raj Bhavan and the main opposition party, DMK and its allies.

 

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