Kerala Governor asserts he was invited to CM Vijayan’s Christmas feast, asks media to find out why he did not attend

When asked about media reports that he was not invited, Khan said the invitation letter was there in the Raj Bhavan to verify.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jan 05, 2024 | 1:43 PMUpdatedJan 05, 2024 | 1:44 PM

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. (KeralaGovernor/Twitter)

Asking the media to find out the reason for his non-participation in the Christmas-New Year feast organised by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan clarified on Friday, 5 January, that he was invited to the event.

Asked about media reports that he was not invited to the event held earlier this week, Khan said the invitation letter was there in the Raj Bhavan for the journalists to verify.

“I don’t want to comment on all these things. The invitation is there in the Raj Bhavan….go and see it,” the Governor told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

He also asked the reporters why he should explain everything to them.

“Why should I explain? It is for you to find out. You ask me questions… You don’t ask questions there (to the chief minister). That’s your problem,” the Governor added.

Khan’s statement came amidst reports by a section of the media that he was not invited to the Christmas feast organised by Vijayan.

Prominent personalities from various walks of life, including Christian priests, attended the chief minister’s feast, held at a hotel in the state capital.

Also Read: Waves of black at CU as SFI steps up protest against Governor 

The tussle with the ruling front

The Governor and the state government have clashed with each other for long over several reasons, including the Governor sitting on various Bills passed by the state legislature.

The conflict snowballed following the Governor recommending senate members for universities in the state using his authority as the Chancellor of the state universities.

The Students Federation of India (SFI) — the students’ wing of CPI(M) — has been staging widespread protests against the Governor alleging that he has been pushing the BJP-RSS nominees to the senate.

In support of the SFI protests against the Governor, Chief Minister Pinarayi 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.

When reporters asked Governor Khan on 28 December whether the swearing-in of new ministers in the state Cabinet the following day would be an occasion for him to negotiate with the state government, he ignored the questions.

Instead, he told them that he had started the process of appointing vice-chancellors for eight universities in the state by asking each university to constitute search committees to prepare the panels.

“All the universities in Kerala are currently having an ad hoc arrangement. I am well within my powers to choose vice-chancellors. In its order against the reappointment of the Kannur University vice-chancellor, the Supreme Court upheld the chancellor’s powers to appoint vice-chancellors. The government, including the higher education minister and the pro-chancellor, will not have any say in the matter,” Khan said, indicating his intention to end the existing CPI(M) control over university affairs.

The Kerala High Court is set to address a petition by educationist Prof Mary George on 12 January, 2024, seeking permanent appointments for vice-chancellors in all state universities, effectively ending the ad hoc mechanism. Governor Khan aims to initiate the selection process before the court’s decision.

Also Read: Kerala Governor seeks evidence on crisis caused by him

Vacant VC posts

Vice-chancellor posts are currently vacant at Kerala University, Mahatma Gandhi University, CUSAT, Kannur University, Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, and Digital University Kerala.

The selection committees will comprise nominees from each university, along with representatives of the Governor in his capacity as Chancellor and the University Grants Commission (UGC). In a possible dispute, the majority can complete the selection process.

The CPI(M) and SFI are worried that Sangh Parivar candidates would emerge as Vice-Chancellors in all these universities as the nominees put forth by the Governor and the UGC can decide the final candidates purely based on the majority.

Though the state government passed separate Bills removing the Governor from the post of Chancellor and expanding the number of members in the select committee to five — involving more nominees of the state government — both Bills remained idle for over a year at the Raj Bhavan, with the Governor choosing to ignore them.

They have been forwarded to the President of India, but there is no guarantee when the President will decide on their future. Now, the government wants to continue with the ad hoc mechanism, at least until the high court considers the petition.

Also Read: Personal attacks fly thick and fast between Kerala CM, Governor

‘Nominations based on merit’

When reporters pointed out that the police had arrested the ABVP worker he had nominated for the Kerala University Senate on charges of attempted homicide on rival SFI cadres, Governor Khan claimed that he was not aware of the development.

He also questioned SFI’s authority to raise such issues by alleging that state SFI President PM Arsho, who orchestrated the protests against him, was accused in 48 police cases.

When asked why he had nominated “Sangh Parivar” loyalists to the Senates of Kerala and Calicut universities, the Governor said he had named people based on merit, not politics.

“I also nominated a few people recommended by the media. They were well-thought-out and studied decisions I took based on reports from varied sources and after much deliberation,” the Governor added.

In the meantime, Governor Khan reiterated his allegation that lawlessness and violence prevailed in the state under the rule of Pinarayi Vijayan.

“Not even the head of state is safe. SFI activists attempted to ambush my car three times on my way to the airport from Raj Bhavan. They mobbed my vehicle and inflicted damage. The police have not booked all of them or slapped charges for destruction of public property on them. The demonstrators fled when I stepped out of my vehicle to confront them. I will do the same if they (SFI) attempt to block my vehicle again,” Khan said.

Related: The claws remain out as divide deepens between Governor and CM

(With PTI inputs)