The bitter feud between Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over alleged political interference in the functioning of the universities, took an uglier turn on Monday (January 10), when the former publicly shamed the Kerala University vice-chancellor Prof. V.P. Mahadevan Pillai for not being able to write two sentences properly.
“My head hung in shame. Pity the VC cannot write two sentences properly,” said Kerala governor Khan to reporters after arriving from Delhi. Khan was referring to a brief handwritten letter written by the Kerala university VC to the governor telling him that the university syndicate had turned down his recommendation to confer a D Litt degree to the President of India, Ram Nath Govind.
In that handwritten letter, the VC had written that “…after returning, I have discussed with several members of Syndicate about the matter of conferring D Litt Degree to his excellency the President of India. The members of the Syndicate turn (sic) it down.” This letter dated December 7, 2021, is being widely circulated on social media.
Prof. Pillai, however, has not commented on this scathing criticism of his writing skills.
Further, the Governor had told the media that Kerala University is one of the oldest universities in the country and the VC cannot even write five lines correctly. “He also cannot even speak properly. I was really ashamed,” said Khan categorically, according to media reports.
Khan is reportedly upset that the VC had not put forward his proposal to consider conferring Kerala University’s honorary D Litt on President Ram Nath Kovind before the university syndicate for consideration. According to the governor, the VC had reportedly made this decision on instructions from the ruling party.
Bent on his agenda to expose the Kerala government’s hand in the running of the affairs of the university, the governor went on to elaborate in detail how the Kerala University VC had declined his proposal telling him that “some people” were not interested in the idea. When the governor pressed him to tell who these people were, he had replied that it was some syndicate members.
“When I asked did he call a meeting of the syndicate, he said no. Then I told him to write the reason on a paper and give it to me,” said the governor, adding he was shocked to read the letter written by the VC.
Khan continued, “Not only writing, he can’t converse properly. Whatever I asked, he failed to give a proper reply. After the letter, I feel ashamed to look at the face of others. I feel pity, this is one of the oldest varsities of the country,” he said.
Also, the governor took the opportunity to reiterate his earlier stand that he will not resume working as chancellor. Though the CM had sent him three letters urging him to take up his position and that there would be no political interference, he was not willing to take up the position. The governor also raked up his grouse about the Kannur University VC’s re-appointment, which he held was “improper” and that he was forced to sign on the appointment letter.
This re-appointment of Kannur VC Prof Gopinath Raveendran was one of the key triggers that sparked off this ugly spat between the governor and the Kerala CM. In his strongly-worded letter to CM Pinarayi Vijayan on December 8, he had expressed his pain over the “dipping standard” of the higher education sector.
Prof Gopinath Raveedran was reappointed chancellor of Kannur university for four years in November last year. Though a selection committee was set up to select the new VC, the government had insisted on giving him the post. Blaming the “brazen political interference” for this decline in the standards of the higher education sector in Kerala, he asked the government to take up the chancellor’s post if political interference continued.
The leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala meanwhile tried to needle the CM to answer why they had opposed the recommendation for conferring the D Litt on the President. Chennithala said that time had run out and Vijayan cannot remain silent like this anymore and had to come clean about the matter.