AA Edit | TN governor's actions a travesty of democracy

Governor RN Ravi's actions in Tamil Nadu's Assembly challenge norms, raising questions on constitutional adherence & democratic principles

Update: 2024-02-13 18:35 GMT
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi. (AA File Image)

Given the quintessential behaviour of governors appointed in the southern states not ruled by the BJP, what R.N. Ravi did in the Assembly Hall inside the historic Fort St George in Chennai on Monday was not at all surprising. Ahead of Mr Ravi, his counterpart in Kerala had also done the same thing — refused to read out the customary governors’ address prepared by the state government.

Mr Ravi added a sprinkling of spice to his recalcitrance by stating that his reading out the speech would be a constitutional travesty and by complaining that the national anthem was not played at the start of the House proceedings despite his repeated entreaties.

From the beginning of his tenure at the Raj Bhavan, another building of historic significance in Chennai, Mr Ravi had been expressing displeasure over a plethora of traditions followed in Tamil Nadu. In fact, he even picked holes in the nomenclature itself by saying that it should be Tamilagan and not Tamil Nadu, a name bestowed on the erstwhile Madras state by the DMK government soon after it romped home in the 1967 Assembly elections.

The governor raised a hue and cry over the translation of the Tamil poetic treatise, Thirukural, into English by G.U. Pope without bothering about the fact that translations of the classic were available in 42 languages and in English alone there were 57 renderings.

Mr Ravi even wanted to expel a state minister who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate but had to rescind the move after he was reminded that he was not empowered to execute it by the Constitution. It was in continuation of this trend of violation of norms, Constitutional provisions and democratic traditions that he has decided to not read out the speech prepared by the government and tried to impose his own idea of a governor’s address on the elected state government.

Having been here for over two years, Mr Ravi should have known that in Tamil Nadu the singing of the Tamil anthem, ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’, marked the beginning of any event and the national anthem was played only at the end. Yet if he wanted the national anthem to be played first, it was just to cock a snook at a tradition.

It was absurd for Mr Ravi to vent his ire over the address prepared for him being not to his liking because the elected government would only try to blow its own trumpet when an opportunity arose to reach out to the people.

Mr Ravi’s professed respect for the national anthem is itself a highly questionable proposition since it was not only at the inaugural of the 2024 session of the legislature on Monday that he breezed out of the hallowed precincts without waiting for the playing of the national anthem. He had done it at the first Assembly meeting of 2023, too. On both occasions he did not show any patience but left in a huff, adding some drama to his walkouts and giving rise to the suspicion that he was trying to draw the public's attention.

But then the utterances of Assembly Speaker M. Appavu, which ironically had to be expunged by the presiding officer himself as they were in gross violation of constitutional provisions, only gave a tragic twist to the dark comedy that unfolded in the House. It appears that transgressing the Constitution has become the new normal.

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