Friday, December 2, 2022

Kerala Governor targets Vijayan over gold smuggling

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Thursday raked up the gold smuggling controversy to target Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accusing his office of “patronising” such an illegal activity in the state and warned that he would interfere in the matter.
Further escalating the tussle between the Raj Bhavan and the LDF government, Khan also justified his decision to seek “constitutionally appropriate action” against the Finance Minister from the Vijayan-led ministry by charging that K N Balagopal tried to “stoke the fire of regionalism” by finding fault with the Governor.
A day after the ruling LDF, led by Vijayan, launched an all-out attack against the Governor by alleging that he was trying to implement RSS agenda in the state’s universities, Khan challenged the Chief Minister to show one example of it.
Rejecting allegations of political interference in varsity VC appointments levelled against him by Vijayan and other LDF leaders at a convention in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, the Governor offered to resign even if one example of his interference in appointment of varsity VCs could be shown.
At the same time, he also asked whether the CM would do the same if he was unable to prove or substantiate his allegations.
“They (Left government, CM) are saying I am doing this (action against VCs) to bring RSS people. If I have nominated even one person, not just of RSS, any person, on my own using my authority, then I will resign.
“Will he (CM) be able to resign if he is not able to prove it? I am asking you (the media). When you make such a serious charge against me, you have to substantiate the same,” he said, speaking to reporters in New Delhi.
Khan said though he has never interfered earlier, the alleged “patronising” of smuggling activities by CMO and people close to the CM are grounds enough for him to interfere now.
“I have never interfered. But now I see all smuggling activities are patronised by the office of the Chief Minister (CMO). Now books are being written. People sitting in the CMO dictate Kannur University VC to appoint their relatives — underqualified and unqualified.
“But if the state government, the CMO and the people close to CM are involved in smuggling activities, definitely there are grounds for me to interfere. I will definitely interfere,” he said, but did not disclose what actions, if any, he proposes to take.
The Chief Minister’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar was suspended and jailed in connection with the gold smuggling case through diplomatic channels involving diplomats and former employees of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram including prime accused Swapna Suresh.
Khan said he had in the past never interfered or even shown his displeasure when the CM allegedly did not respond to his calls or reply to his letters.
“I did not even show my anger,” he said.
“Therefore, if I come to the conclusion that CMO and people close to CM are involved and law enforcement agencies in Kerala are not being allowed to investigate, I will definitely try to ensure these things do not happen,” he added.
Khan said he would do what was necessary as it was his duty to uphold the rule of law and “not rule of the ruler”.
This was one of the reasons why wrote to the CM for “constitutionally appropriate action” against Balagopal, he said.
Referring to a recent speech by Balagopal at the Kerala University’s Kariavattom campus, where he allegedly made remarks against functioning of varsities in Uttar Pradesh, Khan claimed the minister tried to “stoke the fire of regionalism” by finding fault with the Governor and by asking how someone belonging to Uttar Pradesh can understand the system in Kerala.
“This is a challenge to national unity and they must know how people of Kerala react when national unity is challenged. I have a duty to inform people of Kerala why I have withdrawn my pleasure. I have informed people of Kerala that this man is trying to create problems for you.
“Because if he succeeds in stoking the fire of regionalism, he is creating a dangerous situation for the people of Kerala who are all over the country,” Khan said and claimed that even the central leadership of the CPI(M) refused to support Balagopal on the issue as it would create problems for the Left party in north India.
Khan also alleged there was a “fear regime” in the southern state as people were arrested for wearing black shirts to a public meeting.
“You live in Kerala, you live under fear. People going to a public meeting wearing black shirts are arrested. Is that not a fear regime?” he said.
He also alleged that the media in Kerala were afraid to question the CM’s claims and asked why it did not ask Vijayan to show one example of Khan interfering in VC appointments.
“Why does every illegal activity ultimately lead to CMO? You (media) cannot ask a question there (Kerala), all your bravery is here. All your curiosity is with me. When it comes to the CM, your lips are sealed,” he alleged.
On being asked by reporters whether he has asked the VCs, whom he had sent show cause notices, to surrender their salaries, Khan said he has not even received replies of all the VCs yet so how can he pass any order.
He also said he has extended the time for the VCs to respond till November 7 and thereafter, he will also hold personal hearings before taking a decision.
On the LDF leaders, including Vijayan, claiming that the state government was trying to improve education in Kerala, Khan alleged “their idea of improvement was to fill the posts in universities with under-qualified relatives of CPI(M) leaders.”

Must Read