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Has Dhankar Inspired TN Governor?

By Aditi Phadnis
January 23, 2023 09:34 IST
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Former West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar made and his subsequent elevation set a new benchmark for the actions of those who occupy Raj Bhavans, observes Aditi Phadnis.

IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Governor Ravindra Narayana Ravi. Photograph: PTI Photo

On January 9, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi walked out of the state Assembly, possibly the first time a governor has done so.

An Assembly session traditionally begins after the governor has addressed it on the first day of the first session in a calendar year.

The governor does not write the speech, only vets it -- the speech is written by the state government.

On this occasion, the state government's ire was fanned by the fact that while reading the address, the governor simply omitted chunks of the speech, including references to the Dravidian movement and the names of B R Ambedkar and social reformer Periyar E V Ramasamy.

The governor was angered by the fact that Chief Minister M K Stalin insisted that only the speech that was prepared for the governor to read should go on the record, urging the Speaker to frame a motion to that effect that was later adopted by the Assembly.

There can be no greater disrespect to the constitutional authority; and there can be no bigger signal of the loss of trust between the Centre and the state.


This incident reflects new fault-lines in relations between the Centre and non-Bharatiya Janata Party ruled states.

Says Chakshu Roy of the parliamentary watchdog, PRS: "In the coming year, the tension between states and the Union will also reflect in the debates in Parliament."

The Kerala government ruled by the Left Front has resolved to skip the governor's address to be made later this month.

Last year, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led Telangana government did away with the governor's address altogether and went straight to the Budget.

What is surprising is how quickly the slide in Tamil Nadu has occurred.

Ravi, a seasoned bureaucrat, is not given to tantrums.

He has acknowledged publicly in the past that reasoned good sense has worked with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government on issues of divergence.

But well-meaning suggestions are usually state policy in disguise.

In Nagaland, Ravi's last assignment, the political actors with whom he was interacting, quickly discovered this.

The same is happening now in Tamil Nadu.

A former IPS officer, Ravi, 70, retired from service in 2012.

He served as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and was later Deputy National Security Advisor.

But his chief contribution was as the Centre's interlocutor in peace talks with the Naga insurgent groups that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has referred to as India's longest running insurgency.

In August 2015, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) signed a framework agreement with the Centre for a peace accord.

The government interlocutor was R N Ravi who was later made governor of Nagaland.

However, while Ravi's 'interlocution' brought some groups closer to an agreement, it also caused a rift in the insurgent groups.

The NSCN-IM led by Muivah prides itself on being the flag-bearer of the cause of a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim, which would have its own flag, constitution and currency.

But there are other smaller groups, some which are said to be 'supported' by the Indian government.

These, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), were drafted into the negotiations for a framework agreement by Ravi.

Some even agreed that issues of flag and constitution could be kept pending for later, undermining the IM's stance of everything or nothing.

IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Governor Ravindra Narayana Ravi and his wife with former West Bengal governor Mayankodu Kelath Narayanan and Mrs Narayanan at Pongal celebrations at Raj Bhavan in Chennai.
Mr Narayanan and Ravi, both retired Indian Police Service officers, have an Intelligence Bureau connection -- Ravi was a rising star in the IB when Mr Narayanan headed it. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo

The NSCN-IM charged Ravi with trying to break Naga unity by using 'divide and rule' tactics.

This is why, while the central deadline of ending negotiations by 2019 has come and gone, there is no accord -- or indeed news about when it might be concluded.

Latest reports say the NNPG and NSCN-IM have now done a deal among themselves, making it even harder to negotiate as elections to the assembly are round the corner (February 2023).

From Nagaland, Ravi was sent to Tamil Nadu as governor in 2021 after a brief stint in Meghalaya.

Again, speaking at a function on January 4, PTI reported Ravi as saying, 'Here in Tamil Nadu, a different kind of narrative has been created. Everything applicable for the whole of the country, Tamil Nadu will say no. It has become a habit. So many theses have been written - all false and poor fiction. This must be broken. Truth must prevail,' he said, adding Tamil Nadu should be renamed more in tune with the idea of Tamil identity.

'Thamizhagam would be a more appropriate word to call it,' he said.

At the time, even the AIADMK, an ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, was taken by surprise.

The DMK newspaper Murasoli wrote: 'He says the name Tamil Nadu indicates a sovereign nation. Does the name Rajasthan sound like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, or Turkmenistan to you? Isn't Maharashtra a secessionist name for its name indicates the land of Marathas? Kerala's tourism slogan, 'God's own country', may also be a demand for a nation-state status. Isn't it problematic for you to find a 'Desam (land)' in Telugu Desam Party?'

IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with then governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata, May 3, 2021. Photograph: PTI Photo

The real crux of the problems between non-BJP ruled states and the Centre might lie elsewhere.

The elevation of former West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as Vice President has sent many hopes soaring.

Dhankhar's tenure in Kolkata was marked by periodic tangling with the Trinamool Congress.

It is hard to say who was right and who was wrong.

Which political party, for instance, has protested at Raj Bhavan with processions of sheep and goats?

Dhankhar responded by doing satyagraha and going on fasts.

But suffice it to say that the moves he made in West Bengal and his subsequent elevation set a new benchmark for the actions of those who occupy Raj Bhavans.

R N Ravi could be one of those Dhankhar has inspired.

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Aditi Phadnis
Source: source