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RN Ravi as Governor of TN, a mismatch in a peaceful state

Raj Bhavan in Chennai

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The appointment of former Deputy National Security Adviser (DNSA) Ravindra Narayana Ravi as Tamil Nadu Governor has sparked sharp criticism from several quarters including some of the political leaders allied to the DMK and there are valid reasons behind the scathing attacks on the choice of the new Governor.

Unlike Kashmir and the north-eastern states which have a history of separatist movements and armed outfits, Tamil Nadu is a peaceful state which does not require a former DNSA. In the past, the state has seen only politicians trained in democratic functioning as Governors, barring one instance when PS Ramamohan Rao, an IPS officer was appointed in the post. He too did not have the background of working in the NSA or the intelligence wing.

DMK government which openly opposes most of the policies of the BJP government at the Centre is in power in the state. The first question that is raised is whether the Union government sees all the opposition-ruled states as havens of separatist activities or trying to create an image that Tamil Nadu is one such state.

The leaders of the Dravidian movement had staunchly opposed the post of Governors and former Chief Minister and DMK founder CN Annadurai had termed it as an unnecessary appendage in a democracy. The post is considered a vestige of the colonial British rule which appointed Governors as a power centre to monitor and control the state governments elected by the people. The Dravidian leaders felt that such a post has no role in an independent country which followed democratic principles.

Leaders of both the AIADMK and DMK including former Chief Ministers M Karunanidhi and J Jayalaithaa have opposed the role of Governors in Tamil Nadu and there were allegations that the only role the Governors played is to gather information on the happenings in the state and report them to the Centre. Now, the appointment of a former intelligence wing official will only reinforce the negative opinions about the Constitutional post. How a Governor who has previous experience of working in the intelligence function will function in a democratic set up is a pressing question that needs a right answer. In a state like Nagaland which has witnessed insurgencies, the appointment of Ravi might have been a good decision. But, a peaceful state like Tamil Nadu cannot be comparable to Nagaland and there are apprehensions that the BJP-ruled Centre is taking the first step to paint the state in poor light.

a peaceful state like Tamil Nadu cannot be comparable to Nagaland and there are apprehensions that the BJP-ruled Centre is taking the first step to paint the state in poor light.

The new Governor’s background as a man who had two decades of experience in the police department immediately reminds the functioning of Kiran Bedi in the post of former Lt Governor of Puducherry. The power tussle and ugly clashes on many people’s issues between the elected Chief Minister V Narayanaswami and Kiran Bedi crippled the administration of Puducherry.

Compared to Puducherry which was only a Union Territory where the elected governments have lesser power, Tamil Nadu is a state with more powers to the elected government. However, in every state ruled by opposition parties including West Bengal, scenes of power struggle between the elected Chief Minister and the nominated Governor have become the order of the day.

More than the question of what the Governor can do, the major question arises over the motive of the Union government in the appointment of Governors to opposition-ruled states. It is true that R.N.Ravi is yet to take charge as Governor and his likely activities could not be guessed or pre-judged. Besides the background of the new Governor, what raises more suspicions is the motive of the BJP government and the functioning of Governors in the opposition-ruled states. Governors in almost all the opposition-ruled states are drawing allegations that they are working overtime for BJP’s growth and destabilisation of the opposition governments.

The outgoing Governor Banwarilal Purohit was charged with trying to saffronise the universities. He did not respect people’s sentiments or an unanimous assembly resolution to release the seven convicts in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. During the initial days, when Purohit took over as Governor, he toured around the state and held review meetings with officials. This is an instance which throws light on the functioning of Governors appointed by the BJP government.

Former Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao was accused of playing a political role in the merger of the two factions of the AIADMK headed by former Chief Ministers Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam. There are frequent counters drawing a parallel with the working of Congress-appointed Governors. Does BJP follows Congress as a role model? Is the claim that the BJP is different from Congress totally false? Can people vote for the Congress instead of the BJP?

The reasoning that the new Governor’s appointment is aimed at containing ‘non-violent extremism that radicalise the Muslim youth’ just brings the kitten out of the bag. This line of reasoning only suggests that kindling anti-Muslim sentiments and polarisation of communal votes could be a major agenda behind the BJP’s move.

Even if a state witnesses extremist activities, the power and responsibility to check them rests with the elected government and not with the nominated Governor. Those who justifies RN Ravi’s appointment with such a logic are only indirectly accusing that the new Governor will interfere in the power and functioning of the state government.

It is also said Governor has powers to take action against corruption, but such an argument only raises more doubts. No Governor in the past had taken such action. Does it mean that no corruption had taken place in Tamil Nadu till now? Are those defending the Governor’s nomination predicting that the DMK rule will indulge in corrupt activities or just exposing the BJP’s game plan of raising corruption charges against the DMK government with the new Governor’s support.

It is not premature to oppose R N Ravi’s appointment since the opposition is based solid grounds of former Tamil Nadu Governors appointed by the BJP and the functioning of those Governors in opposition-ruled states. But, the argument that RN Ravi’s posting will lead to Tamil Nadu’s development defies logic. Such a reasoning will be fine if the new Governor is an expert on economy and development planning. At least, he must have contributed to the growth of the state where he held his previous post.

The new Governor’s functioning as DNSA or an intelligence official has nothing to do with development activities. Nagaland, on any stretch of imagination, cannot be termed as an economically developed state than Tamil Nadu. The spate of questions on the issue only underscores the growing anxiety among those who value democracy and its cherished principles.

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