Punjab governor threatens legal action against CM, vows not to use state chopper
In an escalation of the tussle between the constitutional head and the elected government, Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday threatened Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of legal action, if he used “derogatory” language against him outside the Vidhan Sabha.
Addressing a press conference at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday evening, the governor minced no words while hitting back at Mann. The governor alleged that the chief minister had used derogatory language against him. “By asking questions, I am just rendering my constitutional duty but he used word ‘love letters’ for my queries. I can’t compete with him. I have to maintain my dignity. I have my own limitations. I can’t answer in the same language. I have to maintain the dignity of Raj Bhawan,” said the governor.
The governor said Mann may enjoy protection as a member while speaking in the assembly, but outside it, if he uses “derogatory language against me then my legal team is there to take care of it and he will face the music”. He said that by using derogatory language, the chief minister couldn’t escape from answering the questions of the governor. The governor also wondered if he committed a “sin” when he asked the Mann government to remove a “tainted minster”, referring to Lal Chand Kataruchak who has been accused of “sexual misconduct”.
Mann had launched a vociferous attack against the governor for “interfering in the working of his government”, stating that the governor had nothing better to do except writing him “love letters”.
Move to replace guv as chancellor
The AAP government’s move to pass a Bill replacing the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of the state-run universities emerged as another flashpoint between Purohit and Mann.
During the debate on the Bill, Mann had brought up the use of the state helicopter. “He takes my helicopter, a government helicopter, and then abuses me… I don’t think so much interference is needed. His duty is to administer an oath… It does not mean he will create trouble for every small thing,” Mann had said.
Miffed over the remarks, the governor retaliated saying, “I will not take your (Punjab government’s) helicopter during my visits to the state, I will prefer travelling in my car.” He said he was not using the chopper for his personal use but to perform government duties. “Touring border areas is my official duty. The chief secretary and DGP have also travelled in that chopper. I vow that till the time I am in Punjab, I will not use a Punjab government helicopter,” he said.
“Hardly, three or four times I have used the chopper in the past and that too for border area visits. You, the chief minister, be happy, I have no problem. I could never imagine a chief minister saying such things about the governor,” he added.
Asked about his response to the Bill, Purohit replied, “One thing I may tell you, I have all the powers. As a governor, I have tremendous powers, I need not be a Chancellor to rectify things.”
‘Will examine legality of session’
On the two-day Punjab Assembly session which concluded on Tuesday, Purohit said he will get it examined whether it was as per constitution as no agenda was given.
Asked if he will give assent to the two Bills – Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by state assembly to ensure free telecast of Gurbani from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and the Bill to replace the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of state-run universities, he replied, “When these Bills will come before me, I will examine them according to the Constitution. If they are constitutionally correct, I have no objection, if not, then I will see what has to be done.”
The governor threw a challenge to anyone to prove any instance of his obstructing the state government’s work. He also said that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had chosen to ignore his request to remove a tainted minister from his Cabinet apart from refusing to provide him information sought on important matters concerning the state.
At daggers drawn for months
Mann and the governor have been at loggerheads for the past several months over several issues, including the procedure followed by the state government for the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).
The two had also locked horns over summoning the Punjab assembly’s budget session earlier this year. The Punjab government had moved the Supreme Court over the issue. The top court, hearing the state government’s plea against the governor’s alleged “refusal” to summon the budget session for March 3, said the Punjab government is duty-bound to furnish information as sought by the governor. At the same time, the court said the governor too is also duty-bound to accept the recommendations of the Cabinet on the convening of assembly. Prior to it, the governor had asked Mann to explain the process of selecting 36 government school principals for a training seminar held in Singapore.
(With agency inputs)