Chennai: Accusations are growing against Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit over his review meetings with government officials in various districts over the last one month that politicians say are an intrusion in the state government’s domain.
But Purohit has dug his heels in, saying more such meetings will follow.
The latest was a meeting with officials of Cuddalore district on Friday, where Purohit was greeted with black flags by members of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).
The inspection was filled with controversy, according to sections of the Tamil media but the Raj Bhavan clarified that the reports were “malicious, scurrilous, mischievous, improper and incorrect".
Media reports claimed that a vehicle which was part of Purohit’s convoy rammed into a two-wheeler, killing three people, while the convoy was returning to Chennai from Cuddalore. However, the Raj Bhavan termed the reports “factually incorrect", adding that the vehicle in question “was entirely on its own and was not part of the convoy of the honourable governor."
Last month, Purohit first raised a few eyebrows after he reviewed the work of the state administration in Coimbatore. Even as opposition parties criticized the inspection as overreach, Purohit again met officials from various departments in Tirunelveli earlier this month.
His visit to Kanyakumari district on 7 December, following the devastation created by cyclone Ockhi, again drew flak, coming as it did amid a clamour for chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami to make the visit.
Leader of opposition and DMK working president M.K. Stalin said Purohit’s visit raised “suspicion" that there is no governance in “the incumbent regime." The opposition party had also raised concern that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre was trying to rule by proxy in Tamil Nadu.
N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said that the visits may give an impression of two power-centres, “especially if political parties, bureaucrats and people decide to either represent or misrepresent facts."
“Even if the governor had the powers, the visits are not going to improve governance," said Moorthy.
Purohit had earlier claimed that there was no “illegality or unconstitutionality" in his actions. And on Saturday, the Raj Bhavan once again defended his tour and meetings in various districts.
“The meetings being held by the governor with the district officials is in conformity with his role as governor of a state under the provisions of the Constitution," a statement said.
The press release also made it clear that Purohit would continue with his visits to various districts in the coming months, and interact with officials and the common people.
Moorthy added that Tamil Nadu once had a bad experience of a deadlock between the then governor M. Chenna Reddy and late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa in the 1990s. Jayalalithaa saw Reddy’s moves as an attempt by the Congress at the centre to dislodge her government.
On Sunday, Congress leader P. Chidambaram tweeted: “Amused by the Tamil Nadu governor’s statement. Governor is only the ‘titular’ head of the executive, not the ‘real’ head. Since the real head, the Chief Minister, is cowering in fear of the central government, the governor is exceeding his authority."
The former finance minister added: “To be worthy of the office he holds, Tamil Nadu chief minister should instruct district administrations to refuse to participate in meetings called by the governor."
Purohit took charge as governor of Tamil Nadu in October, taking over from Maharashtra governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, who had additional charge of Tamil Nadu. His appointment came amid the year-long political chaos in Tamil Nadu and the BJP’s attempts to gain a foothold in the state.