In a dramatic turn of events, the President of India has appointed Ravindra Narayana Ravi, the serving Governor of Nagaland, as the new Governor of Tamil Nadu on Friday. He replaced Banwarilal Purohoit, who has been made the Governor of Punjab. Interestingly, this development happens on the occasion of Ganesh Chathurthi and came as a surprise to the ruling DMK government since there no necessity arose for an abrupt change of Governor. This move has led to a series of speculation in the mainstream media as well as social media. Political pundits have scrambled to decode the raison d’être for such a dramatic move by the Union government. Although the appointment or replacement of Governor is the sole discretion of the Union government of the day and a routine political exercise, what makes the case more curious and interesting is the profile of the new Governor designate.
A 1976 batch IPS officer of Kerala cadre, RN Ravi, as Ravindra Narayan Ravi is popularly known in the national security community, has had an exemplary service during his two decades stint in Kerala police at various capacities. During this time he apparently worked with Ajit Doval, a senior Kerala cadre officer, and had earned his goodwill. Later on he moved to various assignments at the Centre including CBI. But, his stint in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) brought him closer to Ajit Doval, who was then serving as the Director. After a long stint in the IB, he retired as special director in 2012 and was writing columns national newspapers on national security issues particularly on Northeast insurgency. He gained expertise on Northeast insurgency since he was closely involved in the matter under his mentor, Ajit Doval.
When the BJP swept the 2014 general election and Modi became Prime Minister, Ajit Doval was appointed as National Security Advisor (NSA), which is a cabinet rank position. In 2014, he was appointed the chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the apex intelligence body that coordinates with other premier intelligence agencies of the nation such as IB, R&AW and NTRO. Given his expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism and rich experience in dealing with Northeast insurgent groups and J&K, he was appointed as the Government of India (GoI) interlocutor for Naga peace talks. Within a year, he brought the warring factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to the negotiating table and made them sign the historic Framework Agreement (FA) in 2015 in front of Prime Minister Modi. This has brought the 17 years of peace talks with more than 80 rounds of talks to a positive logical end. This also earned Ravi a good reputation and he was elevated to Deputy National Security Advisor (DNSA) in 2018 and later appointed as the Governor of Nagaland in 2019.
Why then was he shifted to Tamil Nadu? What is the significance of his appointment? Is there any hidden agenda of the BJP behind his appointment? Will he trouble the ruling DMK government? These are the speculative questions that have surfaced in mainstream and social media particularly YouTube channels.
First, Ravi was shifted from Nagaland to Tamil Nadu simply to clear the way to implement the Framework Agreement (FA) in letter and spirit because his presence would likely undermine the insurgent groups’ ability to negotiate a fair political deal. The talks had stalled there and Ravi’s role had changed from interlocutor to Governor which the factions could not accept. At the same, RN Ravi should be rewarded for his contribution to the peace and stability in the region through his negotiating and conflict resolution skills.
As Governor, Ravi has the power to act against corruption and can even direct the Anti Corruption Bureau to take action against even any ministers.
Second, his appointment as Governor of Tamil Nadu is a significant move at a time non-violent extremism that radicalises Muslim youth across the southern states namely Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu is on the rise. The return of Taliban in Afghanistan was aided by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and Al-Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) which had considerable cadres from these southern states. Ravi’s expertise in the counter-terrorism area will be better optimised by the security agencies. Although as Governor he has a limited constitutional role to play in the State, he, however, can play a constructive role in matters that seriously concern national security. For instance, he can better scrutinise the appointments of district judges and Vice-chancellors to state universities. Also, he has the power to act against corruption and can even direct the Anti Corruption Bureau to take action against even any ministers.
Third, it is premature to say that he may trouble the democratically elected DMK government unnecessarily. Rather, being a trained bureaucrat he would strive to discharge his constitutional duties and responsibilities. Finally, his appointment should be welcomed and it augurs well for Tamil Nadu’s overall development and growth. But, it’s quiet unfortunate some of DMK’s allies including the Congress have already expressed negative views about his appointment. This is unhealthy and unpleasant.
(The author is a senior Assistant Professor of National Security Studies in the Central University of Jammu and he can be reached at twitter @chamujegan)