Day after LDF attack, Kerala Governor accuses CMO of ‘patronising’ gold smuggling
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Thursday raked up the gold smuggling controversy to target Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Khan accusing his office of “patronising” such an illegal activity in the state and warned that he would interfere in the matter.
Escalating the tussle between the Raj Bhavan and the LDF government, Khan also justified his decision to seek “constitutionally appropriate action” against Kerala Finance Minister KN Balagopal. He alleged that Balagopal had tried to “stoke the fire of regionalism” by finding fault with the Governor.
“Show one example of interference”
A day after the ruling LDF, led by Vijayan, alleged that he was trying to implement RSS agenda in the state universities, Khan challenged the Chief Minister to show one example of it. He even offered to resign if one example of his interference in varsity VC appointments could be shown. Vijayan and other LDF leaders levelled the charges against him at a convention in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
Khan also asked whether the CM would do the same if he was unable to prove or substantiate his allegations. “They (Left government, CM) are saying I am doing this (acting against VCs) to bring RSS people. If I have nominated even one person—not just of RSS, any person—on my own, using my authority, then I will resign,” he told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.
“Will he (CM) be able to resign if he is not able to prove it? I am asking you (the media). When you make such a serious charge against me, you must substantiate it,” he added.
“Never interfered before”
Khan said though he had never interfered before, the alleged “patronising” of smuggling activities by the CMO and people close to the CM were grounds enough for him to interfere now. “I have never interfered. But now I see all smuggling activities are patronised by the office of the Chief Minister (CMO). Now, books are being written. People sitting in the CMO dictate Kannur University VC to appoint their relatives (who are) underqualified and unqualified.
“But if the state government, the CMO, and the people close to the CM are involved in smuggling activities, there are grounds for me to interfere. I will definitely interfere,” he said. However, he did not disclose what actions, if any, he proposes to take.
The Chief Minister’s former principal secretary, M Sivasankar, was suspended and jailed in connection with the gold smuggling case involving diplomats and former employees of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, including prime accused Swapna Suresh.
Khan said he had never interfered or even shown his displeasure when the CM allegedly did not respond to his calls or reply to his letters. “I did not even show my anger,” he said.
“Therefore, if I come to the conclusion that the CMO and the people close to CM are involved and law enforcement agencies in Kerala are not being allowed to investigate, I will definitely try to ensure these things do not happen,” he added.
Khan said he would do what was necessary, as it was his duty to uphold the rule of law and “not rule of the ruler.” It was one of the reasons why he wrote to the CM for “constitutionally appropriate action” against Balagopal, he said.
“Challenge to national unity”
Referring to a recent speech by Balagopal on Kerala University’s Kariavattom campus, Khan claimed the minister tried to “stoke the fire of regionalism” by finding fault with the Governor. Balagopal allegedly made remarks against the functioning of varsities in Uttar Pradesh and asked how someone belonging to UP could understand the system in Kerala.
“This is a challenge to national unity, and they must know how people of Kerala react when national unity is challenged. I have a duty to inform the people of Kerala why I have withdrawn my pleasure. I have informed the people of Kerala that this man is trying to create problems for you. Because, if he succeeds in stoking the fire of regionalism, he is creating a dangerous situation for the people of Kerala, who are all over the country,” Khan said.
He claimed that even the central CPI(M) leadership refused to support Balagopal on the issue, as it would create problems for the Left party in north India.
Khan also alleged there was a “fear regime” in the southern state, as people were arrested for wearing black shirts to a public meeting. “You live in Kerala; you live under fear. People going to a public meeting wearing black shirts are arrested. Is that not a fear regime?” he said.
He also alleged that the media in Kerala was afraid to question the CM’s claims and asked why it did not ask Vijayan to show one example of his interference in VC appointments. “Why does every illegal activity ultimately lead to the CMO? You (media) cannot ask a question there (Kerala); all your bravery is here. All your curiosity is with me. When it comes to the CM, your lips are sealed,” he alleged.
On being asked by reporters whether he had asked the VCs, whom he had sent show-cause notices, to surrender their salaries, Khan said he had not even received replies from all the VCs yet. So, how could he pass an order, he asked.
Khan also said he had extended the time for the VCs to respond till November 7. Thereafter, he will also hold personal hearings before taking a decision.
On the LDF leaders, including Vijayan, claiming that the state government was trying to improve education in Kerala, Khan alleged, “Their idea of improvement was to fill the posts in universities with under-qualified relatives of CPI(M) leaders.”
(With agency inputs)