Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday opened the next battlefront against the State government by threatening to remove Ministers from their posts if they continued to lower the dignity of his office.
In an official tweet, Mr. Khan said: "The CM and Council of Ministers have every right to advise the governor. But statements of individual ministers that lower the dignity of the governor's office can invite action including withdrawal of pleasure".
Higher Education Minister R. Bindu's remark on Mr. Khan's refusal to sign the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 into law seemed to have provoked the Raj Bhavan.
Dr. Bindu suggested Mr. Khan return the Bill for legislative review instead of withholding assent indefinitely.
The tweet sparked protests from ruling and Opposition party leaders who accused Mr. Khan of overstepping constitutional limits. The BJP emerged as the sole voice of support for the Governor.
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau said the tweet exposed Mr. Khan's political bias and hostility towards the LDF government. Mr. Khan's conduct ill behoved the Governor's constitutional stature. The Constitution did not vest Governors with dictatorial powers. Kerala Raj Bhavan had challenged the very foundation of Indian democracy.
CPI(M) State secretary M. V. Govindan said Mr. Khan's tweet indicated brazen ignorance of the Constitution and principles of parliamentary democracy. He said Governors were bound by the advice of the Chief Minister in matters relating to the appointment and dismissal of Ministers.
Mr. Govindan also slammed Mr. Khan for sitting on crucial Bills passed by the Assembly. The Governor should not assume the mantle of British residents who controlled erstwhile colonial principalities.
Leader of the Opposition V. D. Satheeshan said the Governor had no authority to withdraw ministers for the government's failures. The Governor should prudently exercise the duties expected of him. However, Mr. Khan was found wanting on that count. For one, the Governor had accepted the government's illegal decision to extend the tenure of the Kannur Vice-Chancellor beyond the retirement age in silent acquiescence.
Former Lok Sabha general secretary and jurist P. D. Achary said the Governor could not assume to possess powers not accorded to him by the Constitution.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan and BJP State president K. Surendran slammed the government "for using every opportunity to denigrate the gubernatorial office". They said, in separate statements, the government could not expect the Governor to be a rubber stamp for erroneous legislation and nepotism in varsities.
Notably, Mr. Khan was not new to breaking with the conventionalities of the Governor's office. He often used media interactions in Kerala and New Delhi to assail the government on a slew of issues. In September, he held an unusual two-hour press conference at the Raj Bhavan to circulate a litany of charges against the government.