‘Criminal mindset’, ‘insane’: Personal attacks fly thick and fast between Kerala CM and Governor

Animosity between Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reached a record low on Sunday over the SFI's severe protests.

ByK A Shaji

Published Dec 17, 2023 | 3:16 PMUpdatedDec 17, 2023 | 9:19 PM

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Governor Arif Mohammad Khan.

On Sunday, 17 December, the relationship between Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reached a record low when the two leaders accused one another of being unstable and participating in actions unfit for their posts.

Khan launched his morning barrage by claiming that the chief minister was promoting violence as he was from Kannur in northern Kerala, where political rivals sometimes practise murder politics. He accused Vijayan of having a “criminal mindset” while Vijayan deemed Governor Khan “insane”.

Governor Khan after moving out of his car

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan gets out of his car en route to the airport in Thiruvananthapuram and confronts black flag-waving SFI activists. (Sourced)

Meanwhile, regarding the violent demonstrations against him that the CPI(M) student wing SFI staged on Saturday at Calicut University, Khan claimed that the chief minister was deploying students to attack him.

For more than a week, Khan has been accusing Vijayan and his Cabinet of having a criminal mindset and that “they have absolutely no shame”.

It began when his car was attacked by the SFI while he was travelling to the Thiruvananthapuram airport on 11 December.

He called the SFI cadres thieves, scoundrels, and monkeys who have little respect for democracy.

Also read: SC criticises Kerala Governor Khan for sitting on Bills for 2 years

Vijayan questions Governor’s actions

Meanwhile, Vijayan called a news conference on Sunday morning in Pathanamthitta, where he accused Khan of being insane and spewing gibberish while ignoring the significance of his position.

Vijayan said he had no interest in engaging in personal slander, unlike the Governor.

The chief minister lashed out at the Governor for attempting to confront the protesting SFI activists when shown black flags on 11 December.

“Has anyone ever tried to physically confront or take on those waving black flags at them? And then he (Khan) boasts that they (protestors) ran away when he went towards them. Look how provocative his statements are. His actions and interventions are totally bereft of common sense,” he said.

Claiming that the Governor’s actions violated all normal protocols, he said the Central government needed to take a look into them.

Vijayan noted that when black flags were waved at him or his cavalcade, neither he nor the ministers or members of the Left Front used derogatory words against the protesters.

“We only say the protestors should not become violent. But, we do not get out of our vehicles and try to confront them. We let the police take action,” Vijayan said.

Also read: Political parties corner Kerala Governor over selective media boycott

CM bats for SFI

The SFI has been staging widespread protests against the Governor alleging that he has been pushing the BJP-RSS nominees to the senate of various universities in Kerala using his authority as the Chancellor of the universities in the state.

In support of the SFI protests against the Governor, Vijayan said that Khan had broken all rules on the appointment of candidates for university senates, and that he was not authorised to arbitrarily assign BJP-RSS cadres to these positions.

He claimed that when it came to discretionary power, “Governors typically choose from the panel that the universities submit”.

Khan was free to make his selections from university-approved lists, which provided him with the names of candidates to fill the positions, said Vijayan. “His actions are unilateral and arbitrary,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Khan has been staying at Calicut University’s guest house since Saturday amid threats from the SFI that he would not be allowed on campus.

A sizeable group of SFI cadres greeted the Governor with protests when he arrived at the university on Saturday afternoon from Delhi. He was able to enter the guest house after the police took hundreds of SFI activists into custody.

Control of varsities: Kerala Governor, government on collision course — again

John Brittas weighs in

Towards Sunday evening, CPI(M)’s Rajya Sabha member John Brittas took to X (formerly Twitter) to pitch in with his two cents on the issue.

“Indian constitution is being enriched by the Governor of Kerala.. he wants to add black banners and posters as failure of constitutional machinery! Who will save this country from Governor Generals?! [sic]” he wrote in his post while sharing Khan’s press release on black flags.

This was not the first time Brittas compared Khan to pre-Independence-era British officials in India.

In October, he invoked Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, while talking about Khan’s actions.

“He is bent upon ensuring that the Constitution and federalism are in tatters,” said the Rajya Sabha member back then.

Governor clears his stand

calicut university SFI protest: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. (South First)

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.
(South First)

Meanwhile, Khan said: “What does it matter to them whom I nominate to the Senate? There is no shame at all for the ministries or the chief minister.”

On Sunday, he reiterated, “The state finance minister came and asked me to nominate someone.”

He also asked: “How did the chief minister and other ministers know that the individuals I suggested weren’t on the vice-chancellor’s (VC) approved list? They recommended the list of nominees to the VC to recommend to me.”

Khan also announced that he had launched an investigation and threatened to discipline the VCs if it turned out that they were endorsing the names suggested by ministers and the chief minister.

“I can’t be forced to suggest someone by anyone. I’ll use my judgement if I have the authority,” he said. “I am not required to inform you (the media) how I used my discretion.”

As the chancellor of universities, Khan nominated four students to the University of Kerala senate. When informed that the Kerala High Court had halted the nomination process, Khan stated that he had no idea why it happened.

Additionally, he claimed that while the nominations were stayed, the high court made no remarks regarding them.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Gopinath Ravindran’s reappointment as the VC of Kannur University and to criticise the Left administration for its “unwarranted intervention” in the case, the Governor and the ruling LDF in the state have been even more at odds then before.

The Governor had previously “abdicated or surrendered” the statutory rights to reappoint the VC, according to the top court, which disapproved of Khan’s decision to reappoint Ravindran to the position.

Additionally, it had said that the chancellor had the legal authority to name and remove vice-chancellors.

“No other person, even the pro-chancellor or any superior authority, can interfere with the functioning of the statutory authority,” it had ruled.

Khan had claimed that the chief minister had put pressure on him about the case after the ruling.

(With PTI inputs)