Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday, December 13, said that his government has no intention of taking over the position of Chancellor of universities in the state and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan should continue in that post. Clarifying his government's stand in the wake of the Governor's claims of political interference in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of the state's universities, the CM, on December 13, said that neither the present nor the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) administration has tried to illegally interfere in the functioning of the varsities.
The CM, while speaking at a press conference held at Kannur, said he was clarifying the government’s position in view of the things said by the Governor in public. Pinarayi said the Governor has every right to raise his views, but the "propaganda" that all this is decided by the Chief Minister or the ministers was not correct. He claimed that some were deliberately trying to thwart the government's efforts to give a new direction to the higher education sector and statements that motivate such forces, from the Governor's side, were extremely sad.
"I hope he understands that. Those who think that Kerala should not move forward should not be encouraged by those in Constitutional positions like him," the CM said.
However, the Governor, while speaking to the media in Delhi, said he has nothing to say to the CM through the media and that he has not seen any reason to change his decision to relinquish the post. "Why should we talk to each other through the media? If he wants to say something, he can talk to me. I do not want to send him any message through the media.
He said he requested the CM to take over as Chancellor of universities as "I do not want to have a conflict with my government. You (CM) become Chancellor and you do whatever you want to. I am requesting them again to bring an ordinance amending the Universities Act to become Chancellor of Universities as it is not my Constitutional duty...Let them decide who wants to be Chancellor. Let them bring an ordinance and I will sign it."
The CM, in his press conference, said that it was not his government's policy to confront the Governor and any concerns he raises can be discussed. He requested the Governor to continue as Chancellor to guide and lead the efforts of the state government to raise the quality of higher education in Kerala to new heights.
With regard to the recent letter sent by the Governor, the CM said his government's response was conveyed in a letter and besides that high ranking officials of the state as well as the Finance Minister met Khan and heard his views in person. Since he was in Kannur, he could not meet the Governor in person and instead spoke to him over the phone, the CM said.
Khan, while speaking to the media, said that he never wanted to write the letter in the first place and had to resort to that option as he "failed" to talk to the CM over the phone. He also said that whatever he has come to know subsequent to his letter does not persuade him to change his decision.
He also said that he has replied to the letter sent by the government indicating how he feels about the points raised by the Left administration. The CM also said that universities in Kerala are headed by people who are well versed in the field of education and that the Vice-Chancellors are appointed by search-cum-selection committees as per UGC norms.
In a strongly worded letter, the Governor had informed Vijayan that the former was ready to sign immediately if the latter brought an ordinance to amend the Acts empowering the Chief Minister to become the Chancellor of universities. Sources said the Governor wrote the letter as he was upset with the way the affairs of the universities were conducted by the state's CPI(M)-led government undermining his authority as Chancellor of the top academic institutions.
The Governor is learnt to have expressed displeasure over the recent re-appointment of Prof Gopinath Ravindran as Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University for another four years and the state Assembly passing of an amendment to the University Act, which according to sources, have taken away the power of the Chancellor to appoint the University Appellate Tribunal.
The Governor was also reportedly upset with the deletion of a clause authorising the Chancellor to consult the High Court in the appointment of the tribunal. Sources said Khan has also protested the recommendation of only one single name for appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Shankaracharya Sanskrit University.