Clamour Grows for Shifting the Governor of ‘Tamizhaga’
An invitation for Pongal sent out by the Raj Bhavan in Chennai describes the Governor as ‘Tamizhaga Alunar’ (Governor of Tamizhagam), inviting a fresh wave of criticism
Former IPS officer R.N. Ravi is no stranger to controversies. Transferred from Nagaland to Tamil Nadu as Governor in September last year, he has been courting controversies; and this week alone he has waded into three of them.
On Monday he departed from convention in the legislative assembly while reading out the address prepared by the state government and vetted by the Raj Bhavan. Even 72 hours after he stormed out of the assembly, without waiting for the customary national anthem, it is still unclear why he chose to refer to the Government of Tamil Nadu as ‘this government’ or omitted phrases and expressions like social justice, equal rights for women, self-respect and Dravidian model. He also chose to ignore the names of leaders like Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, Babasaheb Ambedkar, K. Kamaraj, C.N. Annadurai and Kalaignar Karunanidhi included in the official address.
The Hindu in an editorial on Wednesday described the Governor’s antics as ‘bad and ugly’. The Indian Express in an editorial today described the Governor’s conduct as unseemly and which ‘ill serves his high office’. The Deccan Herald wrote in an editorial that ‘the views and conduct of governors like RN Ravi do no good to the country’s federal structure, unity and integrity’.
Even before the outrage spent itself out, the Raj Bhavan in Chennai triggered another controversy with its invitation for a Pongal function at the Raj Bhavan on January 12. The invitation sent out by the Raj Bhavan used the central government’s emblem and not the state government’s as is the convention. But more importantly, the invitation was sent out on behalf of the ‘Tamizhaga Alunar” (Governor of Tamizhagam) and not the Governor of Tamil Nadu.
The Governor has indeed been advocating that the state be renamed as Tamizhagam (Abode of Tamils) as against Tamil Nadu (Tamil Nation). But expressing an opinion, observers have been quick to point out, is one thing but putting it in an official invitation of the Raj Bhavan quite another.
While Tamil Nadu chief minister has wisely advised his ministers against criticising the Governor in public, the Governor’s conduct is alienating him from public sentiment. He has also been sitting over a dozen Bills.
This week again, the Governor, while addressing civil service aspirants waiting to be interviewed by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), questioned the Tamil translation of ‘union government’ as ‘Ondriya Arasu’. Pointing out that Ondriyam in Tamil stood for a lower-level official at the panchayat level, the Governor voiced his misgiving that ‘Ondriya Arasu’ was being used by the DMK government as a derogatory term for the union government.
The Governor, however, is not a native Tamil speaker. When chief minister M.K. Stalin moved a resolution in the assembly on Monday, in the presence of the Governor, to retain the original text of his speech including portions he had dropped but not the ones he had added, it was left to the secretary to the Governor to explain what was happening. This prompted the Governor to walk out in a huff.
The former police officer, who has served as a Deputy National Security Advisor after retiring from the IPS with stints in the CBI and the Intelligence Bureau, is better known as the union government’s interlocutor with Naga insurgents. He was instrumental in hammering a ‘framework agreement’ in 2015 which has, however, run into trouble with Naga groups insisting on a separate flag and a constitution. Ravi, who was appointed Governor of Nagaland in 2019, was shifted to Tamil Nadu in September, 2021 following protests in the north-eastern state.
The clamour for shifting him out of the state became more strident this week and it remains to be seen how long he lasts in Tamil Nadu or Tamizhagam as he calls it.