The volte-face by Tamil Nadu governor R.N. Ravi in the form of a “clarification” implying that he mentioned “Tamizhagam” as the name for the state of Tamil Nadu in a “historical and cultural context” and that it is “erroneous” and “far-fetched” to construe it as a suggestion to change the name of the state underlines the delicate position that governors occupy in the democratic set-up when it comes to larger policy and political matters. It also reflects how a governor’s insensitive attempts to advance the political cause of the ruling dispensation at the Centre could recoil on themselves.
It was on January 4 this year that Mr Ravi, while speaking at a function felicitating organisers and volunteers of Kashi Tamil Sangamam, suggested “Tamizhagam” as “a more appropriate term” for Tamil Nadu. The governor has however, offered no justification to discover a “historical and cultural” context to amend the Constitution and rename the state.
It was not for the first time that Mr Ravi has made untimely, unsolicited and even outrageous recommendations that have the potential to disturb the collective consciousness of a people whom he is duty-bound to serve. Nor is it the only instance when he has crossed swords with its polity. He has in the past suggested that the youth of the state frequently lose opportunities owing to their lack of Hindi and he chose to remove the emblem of the state government in his invitation to the Pongal festival at the Raj Bhavan. He famously skipped parts of the speech the state government had prepared where the names of social reformers and political leaders of Tamil Nadu such as E.V.R. Periyar, K. Kamaraj, C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi as well Dr B.R. Ambedkar was mentioned and walked out of the House in a huff while it was still in session. Much against his constitutional mandate, he sits on bills the state Assembly has passed.
From the looks of it, Mr Ravi made the U-turn out of political compulsions. That he issued the clarification on a visit to Delhi for a meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah and that the DMK-led alliance had complained to the President of India against his utterances and actions cannot be lost sight of.
There were even reports that his steadfast attempts to find fault with the state and its polity are hurting the prospects of the BJP in the Dravidian state which sends 39 members to the Lok Sabha. One must also factor in that Prime Minister Naredra Modi in the recently concluded national executive of his party reportedly expressed concern about the slow pace of its growth in the southern states. Squeezed in between the two Dravidian behemoths, the DMK and the AIADMK, the BJP has been finding it very tough to carve a foothold in the political landscape of Tamil Nadu and the governor’s actions hardly assist its efforts.
The Constitution offers very little role to the governors in a state’s affairs, but they have become an impediment in the day-to-day running of the government in states ruled by parties opposed to the NDA. Governors must correct themselves and allow the people’s will to prevail. Pursuing a separate agenda could be a losing proposition for all the stake-holders.