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DMK party mouthpiece Murasoli has launched a scathing attack on Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi for his Republic Day speech supporting NEET. The governor had said that more students from government schools were able to join medical colleges thanks to the NEET exams. Under the pseudonym Silanthi, the writer of the Murasoli box-story not only questions the governor’s integrity but also makes a veiled threat to him for not supporting the DMK’s policies.

As mainstream media has picked up the thread and taken it into public discourse, let’s examine whether there is merit in Murasoli’s anonymous writer’s criticism or if it is just mere posturing to intimidate the Governor’s office.

Firstly, the Murasoli article has lifted the entire story about Ravi’s past portfolio as governor of Nagaland from a story in The Wire. Contrary to what the article says, Governor Ravi was credited for the crucial role he played as the Centre’s chief interlocutor in the Naga Peace Talks. The governor was able to get the warring separatist parties into a dialogue and to ensure that peace prevails in the state. The framework agreement that was signed would enable democratic processes to make deep inroads in the conflict-ridden state. In a way, he was able to break the deadlock and pave the way for a better political future for Nagaland in the Union of India. He even stood firm with the insurgent groups on the demand for a ‘separate constitution and flag’.

Contrary to what the article says, Governor Ravi was credited for the crucial role he played as the Centre’s chief interlocutor in the Naga Peace Talks. The governor was able to get the warring separatist parties into a dialogue and to ensure that peace prevails in the state.

Governor: My job is to do my duty

Secondly, the main trigger for the acerbic Murasoli article was the governor’s Republic Day speech praising NEET. This puts cold water on the Tamil Nadu Assembly’s resolution against NEET which has been pending approval from the governor. Silanthi says that entire Tamil Nadu supports the abolition of NEET other than so-called ‘Sanghis’.

That the DMK got a resolution passed against a national policy, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, doesn’t mean that all of Tamil Nadu is against NEET. What’s worse, the Murasoli article goes on to lecture the governor about his roles and duties. It says that the governor is just a representative of the Union government, and that his primary duty is to convey the sentiments of the state to the Centre and to advise them not to meddle with the state government’s policies. Surely, the governor, given his impeccable record in past assignments, knows quite well what his duties and responsibilities as governor are as mandated by the Constitution of India, and doesn’t need the state government’s ruling party to spell it out for him.

In Nagaland, Ravi had to straddle two complex responsibilities – one as governor of the state and the other as the chief interlocutor of peace talks. But in Tamil Nadu his mandate is to perform the role of the governor freely and fairly, and not to parrot state government policies. There are institutional checks and balances in place precisely to maintain the health of democratic processes. Moreover, the Indian Constitution under Art 163 (1) requires the “Governor to act in his discretion, and his decision shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion”.

Nagaland is a state where armed insurgent groups can dictate or intimidate journalists and even government servants. Is DMK trying to do the same by questioning the governor’s integrity and wisdom? Does DMK aspire to become or emulate the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and play similar rogue politics in Tamil Nadu?

Here, the governor just presented what he sees about NEET to the public during his speech. The DMK, however, seems perturbed over his assertion, and has used its mouthpiece to try and intimidate the governor into submitting to its will. DMK founder CN Annadurai had wondered the governor is as unnecessary as the beard is to a goat. The beard may not be necessary for a goat but galloping horses need a tack and blinkers; otherwise they may go wild.

Instead of resorting to the old DMK style of intimidating the governor, the chief minister should engage with him in his official capacity to sort out outstanding issues. Unlike previous governors with police background, Ravi has a strong intelligence background and a high level of professional integrity. Stalin has to play a long-innings along with the governor if he wants to realise or implement DMK policies over the long term. A cooperative attitude is always better than confrontational posturing.

(Dr J Jeganaathan is a political observer and the views expressed here are personal.)


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