Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s visits to districts to review government schemes has left the Opposition parties irked. While Purohit’s appointment as a permanent Governor after a gap of 13 months that saw former CM J Jayalalithaa’s death and a floor test in Assembly had come as a reprieve, his review visits are drawing protests, with the Opposition accusing him of undermining the elected state government. The government, however, seems to welcome these visits, with officials being instructed to cooperate with the Governor.
Purohit has so far visited Coimbatore, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Cuddalore. His Cuddalore trip days ago triggered a controversy when Sun News and several other channels reported that during his visit to review progress under Swachh Bharat mission, the Governor and officials entered the bathroom of a house when a woman was bathing. While no complaint was lodged, the Raj Bhavan in a statement denied the “malicious and scurrilous” reports. “Any news about Raj Bhavan in future should be reported after due verification and not in an irresponsible manner,” warned the statement.
“The two-day Cuddalore visit was to attend an event as well as to review the Swachh Bharat scheme there. He has already clarified that reviews of projects help him appreciate good work and figure out how the state works. He has said he will be visiting all the districts, there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional in it,” a top Raj Bhavan official said.
However, DMK and other parties continue to criticise Purohit’s visits in which he invites district officials to brief him on schemes.
In a statement against the Governor, main opposition DMK recently quoted the words of former CM C N Annadurai: “Aattukku daadi ethukku, naattukku Governor ethukku.” (Governor’s post is like a ‘goat’s beard’ which is not required).
DMK working president and Leader of Opposition in Assembly M K Stalin has said the Governor’s meetings with officials for briefings confuse the administrative hierarchy and could lead to creation of two power centres.
T T V Dinakaran of the ruling AIADMK’s rebel faction, too, has criticised the Governor’s meetings and asked whether “models in Puducherry and Delhi” are being tried in Tamil Nadu too. “Governor’s attempt to interfere in state governance indicates that it is the beginning of the end of an anti-people government run by CM Palaniswami,” he tweeted last month. In another statement, he also expressed fear that the “administrative crisis” in Delhi and Puducherry due to “Lt Governors’ interference” may be repeated in Tamil Nadu. “Looks like this is the agenda of BJP to derail the constitutional rules to overpower the elected governments in the state,” he said.
Notably, the neighbouring Puducherry has seen several confrontations between Lt Governor Kiran Bedi and the state government, with the latter accusing her of interference.
The Tamil Nadu government, however, has so far been welcoming towards Purohit’s review visits. While ministers mostly stay away from these visits, officials are directed to welcome the Governor. Ministers S P Velumani and Sellur K Raju have expressed happiness about the Governor’s visits.
A senior IAS officer recalled his days as a district collector to compare Purohit’s visits to that of then Governor M Chenna Reddy during his tussle with then CM Jayalalithaa. “We used to get directions from the government to not meet or listen to Governor Reddy’s instructions. Unlike what Jayalalithaa did to Reddy, the present government has given clear instructions to cooperate with the Governor,” he said.
A Raj Bhavan statement Sunday said that without such visits, the Governor “would have no real understanding about the condition, quality and extent of the administration of different regions of the state.” The statement also trashed criticisms that there was no precedent for such visits by the Governor. “…doing of something that does not have a precedent would be objectionable only if it resulted in an illegality,” it said.