A Chancellor and Kerala Government’s Dilemma

New figures released on Monday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have revealed a troubling reality - the number of children worldwide who are deprived of any form of education has reached a staggering 250 million. This marks an increase of six million children compared to previous data, and it is a deeply concerning trend.

The present tug of war between Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Pinarayi led Left Government in Kerala over the issue of Universities is nothing new. The recent contention came to light after the Governor in a strongly worded letter asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to remove him as chancellor and to bring in an ordinance to amend the Acts empowering the Chief Minister to become the Chancellor of universities.

The governor is known to have shot off the letter in displeasure over political interference in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of the State’s universities.


All these could be a laughing stock and the Governor would have meant it only in a sarcastic manner to highlight his displeasure. However, it is not a matter of sarcasm; it is quite a confrontation between the heads of two institutions. Moreover, the governor in no way can demise the office of the Chancellor, as it is a quasi system that entitles him to that position. It was all to drive home his contention against the alleged political interference in Universities that Khan had struck such a controversial; letter.

Well, highly placed sources said that the governor is quite adamant in his stand. The Pinarayi government, which is in the defensive, had started parleys to meet all the demands that the governor has put forth. A few, mostly the Left, might call it as politically motivated the Governor’s actions. However, one cannot merely conclude it as political. It goes beyond political spheres.

Here the question of an accord between the governor and the government comes into question. The governors, who are supposed to be partial, are always appointments by the ruling central Leadership. In the scenario, one cannot be blamed if Governors turn against the state governments formed of opposite parties. Despite this, the Governor is all powerful and has all right to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and the law as incorporated in their oath of office. He also checks the governments in various issues that go against the interest of the state. Quite often, this is debated as most Governors in the past had only taken an opposite stand to that of the state governments, which all had landed in controversies and tug of war.


In the December 8 letter, Governor Khan took a sarcastic swipe as he “advised” Pinarayi Vijayan to assume the position of the Chancellor by amending university Acts to “carry out your political objectives without any dependence on the Governor.”


One of the contentious issues that irked the Governor is the reappointment of the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University Prof Gopinath Ravindran for another four years even after issuing a notification for a fresh appointment. The reappointment came close on the heels of the alleged illegal selection of Dr Priya Varghese as the associate professor in the Malayalam Department of the University. She is the wife of former CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member K K Ragesh, who is presently private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The Governor in the letter is known to have written, “I fully realised that what I had been asked to do was not consistent with rules and was contrary to the law, but I had no intention to start a dispute with the state government. In order to avoid controversy, I signed the order, but I have been feeling extremely uncomfortable after that”.


The Governor is also known to have found fault with the Pinarayi Government’s decision to pass an amendment to the University Act, which has not only taken away the power of the Chancellor to appointment the University Appellate Tribunal, but has also done away with the requirement to consult the High Court in the matter.


The Governor was also irked at the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of Sanskrit University. Despite the Governor appointing a selection committee, which, as per the UGC guidelines, should shortlist three names for the post of Vice Chancellor, the selection committee had only recommended a single name, which is against the norms laid down by the UGC. The Governor turned down the single recommendation.


Coming out against the Chief Minister as usual, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran said that Vijayan had created a record of a sort for Chief Ministers by systematically undermining the constitutional office of the Governor. Opposition Leader V D Satheesan also lashed out against Vijayan, stating that the Chief Minister owed the public an explanation. The Governor’s letter is an indictment of the unabashed politicisation of the higher education sector, he added.

The BJP also came out against the Government. BJP State president K. Surendran said that Vijayan had brought varsities under party cell rule. The Governor’s letter was a slap on the face of the Chief Minister. He said.


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