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'Politically, BJP is ruthless'

Last updated on: July 20, 2023 00:53 IST
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'The BJP think they are running an ideology machine in this country, and they have to convert everyone, from people to parties to party leaders.'

IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi, right, with Home Minister Amit A Shah in New Delhi, July 8, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

On June 19, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi dismissed Senthil Balaji as a minister though the Constitution of India does not give him the power to do so.

A couple of hours later, Ravi put his dismissal order on hold.

Why did the governor choose to do something for which the Constitution does not give him the right?

This is not the first time Ravi stepped on the toes of the state government. To his credit, the chief minister has so far stood strong and tried to put the governor in his place.

What kind of repercussions will this have on the 2024 elections?

Will the people of Tamil Nadu forgive the BJP for trying to interfere with the affairs of an elected government?

Dr Ramu Manivannan, Visiting Professor of Political Science at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, analyses the political scenario.

Professor Manivannan, former head and professor of political science at Madras University, is a keen observer of Tamil Nadu politics.

"It is not out of ignorance they are doing all these things. It is a very calculated decision," Professor Manivannan tells's Shobha Warrier.

The first of a two-part interview:


The governors in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are extremely active to the point they interfere in the functioning of the state governments. Can you think of any precedence?

Many historical precedence is there, like during the Emergency and the post-Emergency period.

There have been incidents of intervention of the central government through the office of the governor then.

But what is interesting is that it was not seen as an ideological threat. What we are seeing now through the Tamil Nadu governor is not just political.

Governors like him are not just politicians, but they are right wing ones.

There is a difference between a Congressman becoming a governor and a BJP person becoming a governor.

What we are witnessing is ideological penetration into the establishment.

You feel this is dangerous to the political scene?

Yes, of course. This will have far more serious implications to political institutions.

The very office of governor has been questioned and challenged about its relevance for the last 30-40 years.

Having seen how the Centre has been using Governors as tools, do you think it is time we do away with the governor's office?

During British times, there was a kind of arrangement between the office of the governor general and the viceroy with its representatives. It was seen as a linkage.

With the federal system in place in the post-independent period, what we see is not just a linkage or a Constitutional bridge between the state and the centre.

Technically speaking, the role of the governor in the state is similar to the role of the President at the union.

While you always have a safe President who doesn't meddle with the Union government, you have many meddling governors.

Though the role is the same, you appoint a safe President. But when it comes to governors, you appoint someone who deliberately meddle with the state governments.

You must also remember that the meddling authority is still the Union government, the real executive.

IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi, right, welcomes Prime Minister Narendra D Modi at Chennai airport, April 8, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Governors are just tools...

Yes. We have to decide whether we need these tools or not.

That's why many questions are raised on the relevance or irrelevance of the office of the governor as it's being misused and abused, whether it is in Telangana or Pondicherry or Tamil Nadu or Kerala or Karnataka.

Politically, the BJP is quite ruthless. You see in Karnataka the Centre is not releasing rice to the state. They just don't care for the people.

Earlier, Congress governments at the Centre also misused the governor's office. Do you feel the BJP is worse?

When you compare the Congress with the BJP, yes, corruption, nepotism, etc are very much part of the Congress, but then they knew they had to follow certain basic things.

In the case of the BJP, they think they are basically running an ideology machine in this country, and they have to convert everyone, from people to parties to party leaders.

They are quite ruthless in doing so. Let's put it this way, it's a form of fascism.

The Congress might be following right of centre ideology, they can never be called ideological fascists.

Only during the Emergency, we saw authoritarianism and centralisation.

But the BJP has travelled close to the line of fascism, when you look at their ideological Hindu fundamentalism like their food culture, language policy and of course the role of governors.

Look at the way the governor in Tamil Nadu functions. The governor in Kerala also. They can get away with anything, not giving any respect or due regard to elected state governments.

The Tamil Nadu governor dismissing a minister or the Kerala governor withdrawing pleasure from the state finance minister are unprecedented in the history of India.
Do you think these men were fully aware of the governor's Constitutional rights and still went ahead with these proposals?

They certainly know the Constitution, they know their powers and they know what they are doing. It was actually a deliberate act of indulgence.

It is not out of ignorance they are doing all these things. It is a very calculated decision.

It is meant to push the government to a difficult situation.

Would you say, it is like intimidating an elected state government?

Yes, it is a form of destabilising elected governments, testing them and also intimidating them.

IMAGE: Dr Ramu Manivannan

The ED pouncing on the DMK minister Senthil Balaji and the events that unfolded have been a hot topic of discussion in Tamil Nadu.
Do you think the DMK got mileage out of this in the form of increased public support?

I am not sure whether support for the DMK increased or not. What happens in situations like these is, even neutral people start defending corruption.

Whether Senthil Balaji is clean or not, the way ED, Income Tax department, etc are used as political tools for quite some time is the question.

They are not seen as establishments monitoring finance or accountability.

If it's a financial issue, why now, when the same Senthil Balaji has been there for quite some time.

I am not here to say whether Senthil Balaji is clean or not, but then there are so many people who are accused of corruption in the AIADMK. It's not just Senthil Balaji.

That's why the whole process is basically political vendetta.

Dismissing him when he is being investigated by ED is a violation of the judicial process as the case is in the court.

And the governor doesn't have the Constitutional right to do so....

Yes, he has no right to dismiss a minister. The governor was conducting himself as a moral authority on legal things.

They just want to test and see what kind of response they will get.

They have now realised that the entire Tamil Nadu has retaliated.

Wherever the governor goes, there are posters condemning him. He doesn't have acceptability anymore among the people.

There are some people who are shouting at him when his vehicle passes. And some just don't care.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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