LDF leaders take on Kerala Governor over varsity row: ‘Mysterious’ demand

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A day after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan extended an olive branch to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who wanted to quit as chancellor of universities in the state over what he alleged was “political interference”, leaders of the two main LDF constituents, CPI(M) and CPI, on Monday mounted an attack on Khan and questioned the bases of the issues he has raised.

CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan called Khan’s stand on appointment of V-Cs as “mysterious”, while his CPI counterpart Kanam Rajendran said the Governor should not force the state Assembly to do away with the post of Chancellor.

Last week, Khan had written to Vijayan expressing his intention to step down as Chancellor “in protest against political pressure” on him to “do things in violation of norms’’. He had also suggested that the Chief Minister can take over that post.

On Sunday, Vijayan stated that misconceptions can be sorted out through discussions, and that the state government wants Khan to continue as Chancellor with all legitimate powers.

On Monday, CPI(M) leader Balakrishnan said: “The search committee (for appointment of V-C at Sanskrit University) was ready to hand over three names. However, the Governor sought one name. His present stand — that the search committee suggested only one name — is mysterious. The Governor should explain (the reason) behind the change of stand.”

Reacting to Khan’s allegation, CPI(M) central committee member and former state Law minister A K Balan said the re-appointment of Prof Gopinanth Ravindran as Kannur University V-C for another term is legal. “The Governor should introspect whether the controversy is beneficial for him,” Balan said. “The Governor may be forced to come out against the reappointment because a petition is pending in High Court, challenging the reappointment. A Governor cannot legally bypass legal advice given by the advocate general.”

CPI leader Rajendran said, “The Governor is made chancellor of universities as per legislation passed by the Assembly. Don’t forget that the Assembly has the right to do away with the post of Chancellor.”

Rajendran also accused the Governor of raking up controversies to win media attention. “My party is of the opinion that the post of Governor is unnecessary,’’ he said.

Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of CPI(M), said the Chief Minister should take over as Chancellor of state universities. “Let the Governor quit as Chancellor, if he wants to do so. The Governor vacating (the post of) Chancellor would be helpful for the higher education sector. It is not a Constitutional post,’’ SFI national president V P Sanu said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Congress and BJP on Monday joined the issue, with Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Congress’s V D Satheesan, demanding that all “illegal appointments” in universities be canceled. “The Governor has given his attestation for all illegal political appointments,” he said.

BJP state president K Surendran sought a judicial probe into all illegal appointments in universities. “The BJP has never used Raj Bhavan for political ends. The Governor has reacted against rampant political interference in academic bodies,” Surendran said. “(Chief Minister) Vijayan has something to cover up and that is why he has not answered the issues raised by the Governor.”

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