Kerala’s peripatetic Governor Khan: Missing from Raj Bhavan once every three days

An RTI reply says Kerala Governor Khan was out of the state every third day between 29 July, 2021, and 1 January, 2024.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jan 30, 2024 | 1:01 PMUpdatedJan 30, 2024 | 1:01 PM

Khan sits on the roadside at Nilamel. (Supplied)

​While the Kerala Raj Bhavan ignores queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by cadres of the ruling CPI(M) on the exact number of days Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has spent in the state since he occupied the high office, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s General Administration Department​ has used one such a query to make the information public.

As per information provided by the department, Governor Khan was travelling outside the state for 328 days between 29 July, 2021, and 1 January, 2024. There were 1,095 days in the period.

That is, Governor Khan had the travel itch almost once in three days during this period.

The Union Home Ministry rules mandate that Governors be available at their assigned state’s capital for at least 25 days a month. The Narendra Modi government has also placed travel restrictions on Governors, including seeking the President’s permission for every trip.

Ever since Khan took over as Kerala Governor in September 2019, there have been allegations that he is mostly in travel mode and rarely spends time at the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram.

Now, it has been officially documented that he was away from his assigned state for almost one full year in 1,095 days — mostly travelling to Delhi and Mumbai, apart from his home state of Uttar Pradesh.

During this period, he had also repeatedly visited Goa, West Bengal, Gujarat, Haryana, and Assam.

The information from the General Administration Department​ comes at a time when critics of the state government have also targeted Vijayan and his Cabinet for their frequent travels abroad, quite forgetting Kerala’s poor financial condition.

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The travel spend

As per the rules, state governments are meant to pay for a Governor’s expenses, including their travel. Also, the rules stipulate that the Governors must mandatorily inform the state government about their travel plans. The General Administration Department’s reply is based on that information.

However, neither the department nor Raj Bhavan has revealed how many days the Governor spent outside the state from when he occupied the office in September 2019 until 28 July, 2021.

Ministers in Kerala have been highly critical of the lavish spending of the Governor on his air travel. They have also publicly urged the Governor to be accountable to the public as he is spending tax money. Even for the last Republic Day party organised by the Governor, the state had to spend ₹20 lakh.

​According to his critics, Governor Khan shares several similarities with Prime Minister Narendra Modi; one among them is a passion for travel.

While Modi is known to be a globetrotter who has visited practically every major country, Khan prefers to travel within the country, mainly to New Delhi and his home state, Uttar Pradesh.

​Data from the General Administration Department​ shows that foreign countries were never Khan’s destinations.

Governor Khan has also developed a penchant for meeting journalists at airports while travelling and using the interactions to launch broadsides at the ruling LDF, especially over the issues concerning the higher education sector.

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Governor Khan’s justification

Why should a Governor spend so many days outside his assigned state?

Governor Khan has an answer, which he shared at a public meeting held in Panaji in the presence of his Goan counterpart, PS Sreedharan Pillai, last year.

“I am getting numerous invitations from other parts of the country to attend seminars and other programmes. As they are integral to my assignment as a Governor who holds a constitutional position, I have to attend them,” Khan reportedly said.

“They all are important meetings. In addition, there are official meetings in Delhi and other metropolises,” he added.

Pillai, who hails from Kerala, backed Khan, saying public representatives and important people must travel.

“There were some newspaper reports that Khan spent ₹20 lakh on travel in eight months. In my case, the travel expense for that period was ₹48 lakh. There is nothing wrong or illegal about it,” Pillai said.

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The financial crunch

​However, Khan’s travel plans are likely to be hit in the coming days, mostly because of the severe fiscal crisis Kerala is facing.​ The government is seriously considering cutting travel-related allocations of VVIPs, including the Governor and the chief minister, citing financial constraints.

According to the rules, the states concerned meet the expenses of the Governor.

In Khan’s case, he spent the ₹11,88,000 earmarked in the state budget for his travels​ last year. ​ Though the state government has not responded to his letter asking for an additional ₹75 lakh to clear the arrears to various travel agents and to meet future requirements, Raj Bhavan has cleared all such Bills using the budgetary allocations for the entire Raj Bhavan functioning.

​It’s not known yet whether the annual budget this time would consider the Governor’s request to increase his travel funds.

Khan would find himself constrained if the state government decided against increasing the allocation for his travel expenses from the existing ₹11,88,000.

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While Khan appears unperturbed, government sources said the expenses of senior officials and personal staff who accompanied the Governor had not been accounted for. Hence, the Governor has demanded an additional amount to clear the arrears and future journeys.

As per informal estimates, the travel expenses of staff and senior officials of Khan would cross ₹1 crore, and there is the possibility of seeking more funds after the next budget.

Conventionally, the expenses of Governors and Raj Bhavans are not audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

According to Raj Bhavan sources South First reached out to, Rashtrapati Bhavan had asked for details of the Governor’s excessive travels in 2021 after he had stayed 82 days outside Kerala.

The Governor reportedly submitted all the required documents to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The General Administration Department confirmed that Khan had received a total of ₹46.55 lakh for meeting his travel expenses in the past four years.

His travel details within the state would only be available after some time.