In a dramatic turn of events at the Kerala State Assembly on Wednesday, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan read out the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) stand of the state government in his customary address which marked the beginning of the Budget session.
The Governor, who'd previously said that the Kerala State Assembly cannot pass a resolution against the CAA since it comes under the Centre's purview, was met with strong protests from the Opposition when he arrived.
However, on Wednesday, he proceeded to read out the Kerala government's stand, asking the Centre to abrogate the CAA. He also added that he was only reading out the statement in deference to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's wish, and that he did not agree with it.
The statement that the Governor read says, "Our citizenship can never be on the basis of religion. As this goes against secularism which is part of the basic structure of our Constitution, this august body unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Central government to abrogate the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 which my government says it goes against the cardinal ethos underlying the Constitution. As per this, my government has filed an original suit in the Supreme Court invoking provisions of Article 131 of the Constitution."
Ever since the Kerala State Assembly passed a resolution against the CAA, the Governor has been publicly asserting that the resolution was not legally valid. His statements had given rise to controversy in the state, with the Opposition also attacking him for his stance.
The Governor reiterated his disagreement on Wednesday, too.
“I am going to read this para because the Honourable Chief Minister wants me to read this although I hold the view that this does not come under the definition of policy or programme. The Honourable Chief Minister has himself said in his letter that this is the view of the government, I disagree, but to honour his wish I am going to read this paragraph,” said the Governor, before the reading out the anti-CAA portion.
The Governor in his speech also said that the Centre should consider the apprehensions of the states.
“The voices and general apprehensions of the states need to be considered by the Centre keeping the broad national interest in mind, particularly when the Constitutional values are involved and in things which spread anxieties and apprehensions among a large number of citizens,” the Governor further added.
When the Governor, accompanied by Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Secretary Tom Jose, arrived at the Assembly, he was blocked by the Congress-led UDF's MLAs. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had moved a notice in the Assembly seeking permission to bring a resolution to recall the Governor over his statements on the CAA.
With placards that had slogans like ‘Repeal CAA’ and chants of ‘Go back’, the Opposition blocked Arif Mohammed Khan from entering the central square of the hall for about 10 minutes.
Following this, the watch and ward personnel came in to clear the Governor's path by forcefully pushing back the Opposition MLAs and allowing the Governor to reach the Speaker's dais.
Though the Governor managed to reach the dais and started to deliver his speech amidst the commotion and tussle, the Opposition staged a walk-out from the Assembly, registering their protest.
The MLAs led by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala then held a sit-in dharna in front of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, in his address, the Governor also congratulated the state government, pointing out the progress reports it brings out each year which talk about the promises implemented by the government.
“The government has brought out progress reports of implementation of the promises they made during elections to the people and this is path-breaking in the history of our democracy,” said Arif Mohammed Khan.
Later, when addressing the media, the Governor shrugged away the high drama at the Assembly.
"I have seen much worse when I was a member of the House," he said while replying to a question on the Opposition's protest.