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DMK founder and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu C N Annadurai once said that the Governor’s role is as unnecessary as a goat’s beard.
The beard may be superfluous to a goat but certainly not to a man. The goatee on a man signifies stature. It gives him a serious look, the appearance of an intellectual.
The man with the goatee knows more. He doesn’t look at you but considers you. The goatee distracts and compensates for any shortcoming on the pate above. So, typically middle-aged men grow a goatee.
The goatee has contributed to the image of many famous people. The goatee was inseparable from or perhaps intrinsic to the image of Lenin, the all-knowing, super-brilliant philosopher with a shiny bald pate who demolished a whole way of living and thinking. Even as he relied on people’s support to create a revolution and take power, Lenin created a powerful spook force to keep that power.
The goatee that Tamil Nadu has been given is our version of the KGB operative.
The DMK has revelled in clashing with the governor. A party basing itself on regional power will naturally have to be antagonistic to the institution of the Governor. And the Dravidian party has a history of run-ins with the governor.
The governor is not quite like the President in our Constitutional scheme. He is not beholden to the ministry and the chief minister of the state. They don’t appoint him. The President appoints the governor, in other words the Union government appoints him. The governor therefore reports to the Union government.
The DMK is a potent ideological and political force. It is no ordinary regional party and should not be trifled with either. It has the resources, a base, a thinking, and a tradition to back it up. It may not represent some people but seeks to represent a people.
By returning the NEET bill a few days after the broadside against him in Murasoli, Governor RN Ravi has shown that he loves a battle and is more than willing to jump into it. The DMK has launched a no-holds-barred campaign in the media, in Parliament and elsewhere against the governor. When their leaders hit the road to campaign for local body elections, they are bound to attack the governor and bring NEET back on to the center stage.
But Governor Ravi is not the typical politico that the DMK can checkmate or bring to its side that easily. The DMK had Governor Surjeet Singh Barnala on its side in 1991, and yet its government was dismissed by the Union government.
RN Ravi is a career spook. He was coordinating the intelligence collection from all states and was super spook Ajit Doval’s point person, before he took up the Constitutional post. If Doval needed something to be done, Ravi would get it done. The longstanding insurgency in Nagaland was solved—well almost solved—by Ravi.
Governor Ravi gives the image of being quiet and reserved but is known to have a temper. He can lash out at people. He can maneuver an antagonist into becoming an insignificant nuisance. A former journalist and a Patna socialist, Ravi made a career move by crossing to the other side. Like all good spooks, and enterprising journalists, he has his sources. He talks to a range of people, keeps tabs on many, and compiles reports that can become actionable. Before anyone goes to meet him to get anything done, he is already two steps ahead and knows more about the matter than the supplicant. And if he wants, he can solve the problem in ways that the petitioner may not have thought of.
When BJP state president K Annamalai asked to meet the governor to thank him for returning the NEET bill, he had no one to meet. The governor had flown to New Delhi. Governor Ravi knows the ways of politicians and can deal with them appropriately.
Sounds familiar? Well, yes, the grand old man Karunanidhi himself comes to mind.
It is not clear if Stalin asks himself the question: What would father have done? It is quite likely no one in the DMK dares to ask that question. Machiavellian maneuvers by novices can backfire severely. And they know it. Karunanidhi was one of a kind.
Can the DMK walk back after making their point? Will Ravi allow them to? Or will he choose to fight back? And, how would Karunanidhi have handled him?
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