Is Tamil Nadu governor meddling in routine affairs of the state?

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A file photo of Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit. Photo: PTI

Chennai: The newly appointed governor of Tamil Nadu Banwarilal Purohit held discussions with the Coimbatore district collector and other officials on Tuesday. The meeting has raised eyebrows as it is unusual for a governor to review the work of a state administration.

He met Coimbatore district collector T.N. Hariharan and was briefed on district administration.

Opposition leader and working president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam M. K. Stalin said the review conducted by the governor leads to a suspicion, whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to create a proxy government in Tamil Nadu. “If Governor is really interested in good administration in the state, he should order a floor test,” Stalin added.

Sidelined All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran has termed it as “BJP’s style of intruding into the state’s governance”.

Amid a tussle for leadership in the ruling AIADMK, the BJP at the centre has been accused of manoeuvring political affairs in the state, after the demise of late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa.

In May, Vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, who was then a Union minister, review of central government schemes at the state secretariat along with chief minister Edapaddi K. Palaniswami drew much criticism.

Critics had then questioned whether a similar meeting would have taken place if Jayalalithaa was alive, and termed it as an attempt by the BJP to interfere in the internal affairs of the state.

“I have not come here for any politics, it is a departmental review,” Naidu had said.

Purohit took charge as the governor of Tamil Nadu in October. Maharashtra governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao had an additional charge of Tamil Nadu for over a year, as the state was in between a political turmoil and there were demands from all quarters for a permanent governor.

Also Read: Tamil Nadu: Governor’s indecisiveness and Election Commission’s silence

While governors have traditionally stayed away from state affairs, in the neighbouring Union territory Puducherry, Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi has been at loggerheads with chief minister V. Narayanasamy. She assumed charge in 2016. Earlier this year in January, she announced that she will quit on 29 May 2018, when she completes two years in office.

Also Read: Spat between Puducherry CM V. Narayanasamy and L-G Kiran Bedi escalates

However, is Tuesday’s meeting between the governor and the collector and other senior officials, an interference?

“Not in theory. But given the precedents set by Kiran Bedi and successive counterparts in Delhi against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the governor’s role in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, etc, this one leaves an uncomfortable feeling,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Opposition parties Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) have criticised Tuesday’s meeting.

However, similar review meets have happened in Tamil Nadu before 1967 during Congress rule and they were seen as supplementary supervision of the district administration, said Sathiya Moorthy.

“It was also because the governor came from the same party as that of ruling party at the centre and the state. After discussing issues at the ground level he would report to the state government or discuss the affairs with the chief minister. He would leave it at that. Never interfered,” he added.

Also Read: Why isn’t it easy for BJP to enter Tamil Nadu politics?

“In the 50 years of Dravidian rule in Tamil Nadu, the Governors have been seen as being antagonistic and many of them have proved to be,” said Sathiya Moorthy.

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