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‘If CM doesn’t act, someone will move court’, says Kerala governor on row over minister Balagopal

Arif Mohammed Khan says he hadn't asked for finance minister to be sacked, but merely 'explained constitutional position' that minister cannot continue without governor's pleasure.

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New Delhi: It is the prerogative of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to decide whether to act on his letter referring to the finance minister, but it is possible that some person may move court on the matter, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has said.

In his 25 October letter to the chief minister, Khan wrote to Vijayan that finance minister K. N. Balagopal had violated his oath of office and hence ceased to enjoy his pleasure.

“It is up to the chief minister [what he wants to do with Balagopal]. I have explained the factual position to him that this is the oath of office that I had administered to him and he had pledged to uphold the unity and integrity of the country. He [Balagopal] has violated it…It is not as if the education system is divided into south and north. He does not even know that the BHU is a central university and more V-Cs there have been from the south than from the north,” Khan, who is currently in Delhi for a book release, told exclusively to ThePrint.

“I have told him [CM] that he [Balagopal] does not enjoy my pleasure any more. I have explained the constitutional position that he cannot continue in that position without my pleasure. It is now up to the chief minister what he wants to do. If he does not do anything, somebody will go to court. It is not my part  to force him into anything,” the Kerala governor said.

The reference is to Balagopal’s address in Kerala University where he had contrasted the “democratically functioning” educational institutions in the state to those in Uttar Pradesh, where he claimed students were shot by the gun-wielding guards of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) vice-chancellor years ago.

Somebody accustomed to the practice in places like Uttar Pradesh might not be able to understand the democratic functioning of Kerala universities, he had reportedly said.

In his letter to the chief minister, Khan had mentioned that Balagopal’s statements were nothing but violation of the oath he had administered to him at the time of joining office.

“A minister who deliberately violates the oath and undermines the unity and integrity of India cannot continue to enjoy my pleasure. In these circumstances, I am left with no option but to convey that Shri K. N. Balagopal has ceased to enjoy my pleasure. I hope that you will consider the matter with the seriousness it deserves and take action which is constitutionally appropriate,” the Kerala governor wrote.

Vijayan had replied in negative, saying that the finance minister’s statement cannot warrant a ground for cessation of enjoyment of the Governor’s pleasure. “Hence, no further action needs to be taken on the matter,” he had replied.

Also Read: Raj Bhavan vs govt in Kerala: How skirmishes snowballed, led to governor wanting minister out

‘People of Kerala support me’

Khan has had on and off run-ins with the Kerala government since he entered the Raj Bhavan in 2019, but has also been vocal in his praise of the state’s efforts during the Covid pandemic.

The latest bone of contention between the Kerala government and the governor is Khan’s insistence that the appointment of the vice-chancellors of several state universities is illegal and that they should step down.

Apart from Balagopal, higher education minister R. Bindu, law minister P. Rajeeve and local self governance minister M. B. Rajesh have been critical of the move.

Khan said that the attempt to wedge a regional divide is exclusive to Balagopal as the people of Kerala in general are very supportive of his efforts.

“All my life, I have been against this centrifugal mindset that tries to break India into pieces. I have been an upholder of my convictions. Otherwise who resigns from the Union cabinet at 35?” he said. “You should go and check with the people of Kerala what kind of support I have. Everybody is standing with me: intellectuals, common man. Otherwise, how would a governor reverse decisions of an elected state government?”

‘V-Cs have time till 3 Nov’

Khan said that as chancellor of the universities, he had asked the vice-chancellors to step down. “It was not an order. When they did not do so by the stipulated time, he issued them a show cause notice. Reports that claim that the court has set aside the directions are incorrect.”

The court has said that the petition of the vice-chancellors is infructuous because there is now a show cause notice that they have received, he added.

“I had told the vice-chancellors that all your cases are covered under the Supreme Court judgment and hence I am giving you a way out; they should resign by 11 am. By 11.30, I had issued show cause notices.

“By the time the court heard the case at 4 pm, it said the order — if you want to call it that — has already been followed up by a show cause notice. The V-Cs should reply to that. I have given them time till 3 November to reply,” the Kerala governor asserted.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: Pinarayi Vijayan remains immune to graft charges but new book says his family sought favours


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