Timeline: How Governor RN Ravi and DMK government in Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads since 2021

Governor RN Ravi has been tussling with Chief Minister MK Stalin and the Tamil Nadu government from the time he took charge on 18 September, 2021.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Jul 02, 2023 | 6:55 PMUpdatedJul 02, 2023 | 7:00 PM

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi with Chief Minister MK Stalin

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Tamil Nadu government and state Governor RN Ravi have been at loggerheads over several issues from the time he took charge on 18 September, 2021.

Soon after taking the oath, Ravi told reporters: “A Governor is to function within the parameters of the constitution. And I will try my best to keep that in mind. The slate of our (his and the state government) relationship is absolutely new and clean. My effort will be to make it as beautiful as possible in the days to come.”

Was it beautiful in the coming days? If anyone dithered before answering that with a simple “No” before, Ravi sitting on key pieces of legislation, deviating from the approved text of speeches, and — most recently — ordering the dismissal of minister Senthil Balaji from the Cabinet before hastily keeping the order in abeyance have removed any semblance of doubt for them.

Related: You have no powers to dismiss my ministers, Stalin tells Ravi

The first few months

On 23 October, nearly a month after taking over as Tamil Nadu Governor, Ravi met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.

A Raj Bhavan release, while he was in Delhi, stated that a number of issues concerning the development of the state and the welfare of its people were discussed.

Many see that as the beginning of the rift between the DMK government and Ravi.

On 30 October, 2021, Ravi called a meeting with the vice-chancellors (VCs) of all the Tamil Nadu universities. Higher Education Minister Ponmudi complained that he was not informed about the meeting. However, the government allowed the senior secretaries of the state to participate in the meeting.

On 1 November, during the 42nd Convocation of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Ravi spoke about Santana Dharma among students — the first time he would do so in public.

On 11 November, the Governor appointed one RM Kathiresan as the vice-chancellor of Annamalai University. In the subsequent days, the appointments of VCs became a topic of contention between the Higher Education Department and the Raj Bhavan, which led the state government to pass a bill empowering itself to appoint vice-chancellors to state universities instead of the Governor.

The moves of the Raj Bhavan made Chief Minister MK Stalin direct the VCs of state universities to abide by the policy decisions of the state government. However, the cold war between the state and the Governor left the vice-chancellors in a quandary, caught between two power centres.

On 9 December, 2021, while presiding over the 37th Convocation of Bharathidasan University, Ravi batted for the National Education Policy (NEP), which was vehemently opposed by the Stalin-led DMK government. In the subsequent days, DMK ministers responded that they would not implement the NEP in the state.

Also read: Suspended DMK cadre sued for remarks against RN Ravi

Rising attacks in 2022

On February 1, 2022, the Governor returned the NEET Bill, which was passed on 13 September, 2021, to the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, giving “detailed reasons, for its re-consideration by the House”.

The information was made public a day later. Within hours of the Raj Bhavan release, Stalin said that he would adopt the same Bill in the Assembly again. He also called for an all-party meeting on the issue.

On 8 February, the Bill was re-adopted by the Assembly and sent to the Governor. Sitting on it for three months, Governor Ravi forwarded the NEET Exemption Bill to the Union Home Ministry on 4 May to get the President’s assent.

On 19 April, while the Governor’s convoy was passing through Mayiladuthurai to on its way to the Dharmapuram Adheenam mutt, where Ravi was to attend an event,  black flags were shown to him for delaying bills passed in the Assembly.

It was the first black-flag protest by the DMK allies — including the VCK, the Congress, and the Communist parties.

The Governor alleged that stones were pelted at his convoy and his car was attacked during the protest. The police would go on to rebut the allegations.

On 31 May, 2022, the state government announced that the Governor had kept pending 21 bills that were passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Related: DMK trends #GetOutRavi after Governor RN Ravi delays bill

On 19 June, while inaugurating VO Chidambaram’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations at Thoothukudi, Ravi called for “Ore Bharatham Unnatha Bharatham” which means “One India, Great India”. This was a Tamil translation of the BJP’s national-level Hindi slogan “Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat”. He also spoke on Sanatana spirituality, which he said was “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”.

On 25 August, 2022, Governor RN Ravi, at the unveiling of a statue of poet Thiruvalluvar at the Delhi Tamil Education Association (DTEA) Senior Secondary School at the Lodhi Estate in New Delhi, stated that the Thirukkural had been reduced to a book about a “code of conduct”.

He added that when noted scholar GU Pope translated it, he removed the spiritual aspect of the Thirukkural, which had been used by politicians for their vested interests and by people who don’t believe in God.

The next day, DMK mouthpiece Murasoli took on Ravi for his comments.

On 28 October, during an address at the JSS Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences & Hospitals, Ravi asked the state government why it took over four days to recommend a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the Coimbatore car blast after the police had arrested the suspects.

When the state government maintained it as a gas cylinder blast, Ravi called it a terrorist attack.

This led Stalin to retort that it was the first time in the country that a case was handed over to the NIA just four days after the incident. The same week, Ravi sought a report on the incident from the state police.

The same month, the DMK and its allies, in a joint statement, condemned the Governor for “making controversial statements” and upholding Sanatana Dharma against the oath he took on the Constitution.

On 5 December, the representatives of online gaming companies met Ravi at Raj Bhavan and expressed their concern about the Prohibition of Online Gaming bill, a piece of legislation the state had been forced to mull following a series of suicides by people who had been stung by losses and mounting debt because of these platforms.

Also read: Governor a threat to peace in Tamil Nadu, DMK tells President

Clashes peak in 2023

On 4 January this year, while addressing a programme held at the Raj Bhavan to felicitate organisers and volunteers of the Kashi Tamil Sangamam, Ravi allegedly remarked that the word “Tamizhagam” was a more appropriate term for Tamil Nadu.

While the BJP defended Ravi, the DMK and AIADMK disagreed with the Governor’s comment. His effigy was burned all over the state.

On 9 January, after Ravi skipped a paragraph containing references to the “Dravidian Model of governance” while delivering the Governor speech at Assembly, Stalin moved a resolution to retain on the Assembly records only the printed and approved speech copy given by the government. Ravi walked out of the Assembly.

On 25 January, the DMK allies announced that it would boycott the Governor’s tea party for Republic Day, stating that he had acted against the Constitution

On 23 February, the DMK slammed Governor, saying that his job was not to convert the Raj Bhavan into a coffee shop and invite jobless people there. They were reacting to Ravi’s remark on an Army jawan’s killing at Krishnagiri. Ravi took his official Twitter account and posted that the killing was a “matter of serious concern” after a group of right-wing ex-servicemen met him.

On 9 March, Ravi returned to the state government the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, which had been passed by the Assembly on 19 October last year.

On 6 April, during an interaction with civil service aspirants at the Raj Bhavan, Ravi said that withholding a bill did not mean that the Governor was simply holding it, but rather that the bill was dead.

In the same meeting, he said that anti-Sterlite protests were induced by foreign funds, for which the DMK and allies protested in front of Raj Bhavan on 12 April.

On 10 April, upping the ante against Ravi, Stalin adopted a hitherto unprecedented resolution urging the Centre and the President to fix a timeframe for Governors to approve bills adopted by state assemblies. The very same day, the Governor cleared the pending bills.

Related: Stalin urges non-BJP CMs to pass resolution on Governors

On 4 May, in an interview with a news organisation, Ravi levelled several allegations against the state government, including that the two-finger test was conducted on the minor children of Chidambaram Dikshithars. The state government and the police vehemently criticised the comments and denied the allegations.

On 31 May, Ravi wrote to Stalin to drop Senthil Balaji from the Cabinet. pointing out the ED raids on the minister. Stalin refused to do so, standing his ground.

On 15 June, Ravi refuses to accept the recommendation of a change of portfolio held by Balaji to two other ministers, and again insisted that the chief minister drop him from the Cabinet.

A day later, the Governor accepted the recommendation but said that he disagreedwith Balaji continuing in the Cabinet.

On 30 June, Ravi unilaterally issued an order dismissing Balaji from the Cabinet, but and hours later put his decision in abeyance.

Also read: Rajinikanth discusses politics, spirituality with TN Governor