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Kerala FM’s continuation after governor’s remark may be challenged

Arif Mohammed Khan had written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that state Finance Minister KN Balagopal has ceased to enjoy his “pleasure”, and hence asked him to “consider the matter with the seriousness it deserves and take action which is constitutionally appropriate”.

Statesman News Service | Thiruvananthapuram |

After intervention in the universities in the state by initiating actions against vice-chancellors who have been appointed allegedly by flouting the UGC rules, on the strength of the Supreme Court orders in the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological university VC appointment, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has moved against a minister, who allegedly made a ‘UP model speech’, which according to him undermines the “unity and integrity” of the country.

The other day, Arif Mohammed Khan had written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that state Finance Minister KN Balagopal has ceased to enjoy his “pleasure”, and hence asked him to “consider the matter with the seriousness it deserves and take action which is constitutionally appropriate”.

He has given the strong message that he won’t hesitate to take strong action against ministers who deliberately “violates the oath office” and undermines the “unity and integrity” of the country.

The governor, in the letter, said that Balagopal “ceased to enjoy my pleasure,” indicating that he wanted the minister sacked.

As in the old ‘Punjab model’ speech of late Kerala Congress (B) leader Balaishna Pillai, the Governor has alleged a ‘UP model speech’ on state finance minister Balagopal and has levelled sedition charges against him.

“Although there are others like the Higher Education Minister and Law Minister who are indulging in attacks on me, I wish to ignore them as they hurt me personally. But if I do not take cognisance of the seditious remarks of Balagopal, it would be a grave omission of duty on my part. I had appointed KN Balagopal on your recommendation as a minister,” the governor says in his letter sent to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Chief minister Vijayan has absolutely rejected the allegations and has strongly defended  his cabinet colleague saying there is no basis for his allegations  in the  reply to the Governor’s letter

“My trust and confidence in K N Balagopal, a member of the council of ministers of the state of Kerala holding charge of the finance portfolio still remain undiminished. I hope the Hon’ble Governor will appreciate that no further action needs to be taken in the matter,” the CM said in the letter.

In normal course, the issue may end there as the chief minister came in support of  his cabinet colleague and the Governor cannot sack the minister from the cabinet. Although  Article 164(1) does say that “Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor”, this provision does not mean that the Governor has the power to sack a minister. There has been no occasion in the history of the India so far of a Governor unilaterally removing a minister from the government.

However, the trouble for Balagopal is not over with the chief minister rejecting the charges levelled against him by the governor. The fact that the state governor has levelled sedition charges against Balagopal is a serious matter. “But if I do not take cognisance of the seditious remarks of Balagopal, it would be a grave omission of duty on my part. I had appointed KN Balagopal on your recommendation as a minister,” the governor further said in the letter,”

In the circumstances, any person in the country can approach court against the minister, on whom the governor has levelled sedition charges. In such a situation, the question arises whether a minister who ceases to enjoy the “pleasure” of the governor can continue in office or not, whether ministers can use abusive language against governors may also arise. There are chances such a case coming before a constitution bench of the Supreme Court.

Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishnan Pillai made a controversial speech in this regard which was later marked in Kerala’s political history as ‘Punjab Model’ at a Kerala Congress meeting at Kochi in May 1985. The speech was then construed to be secessionist and one that encouraged terrorism.

“If Kerala will get industries only if it toes the Punjab line, we will consider it. A separate nation should be formed here also,” Pillai said at the meeting

“The coach factory that was allotted to Kerala has been taken to Punjab. If Kerala should get its due, what’s happening in Punjab should be replicated here too,” was how then power minister R Balakrishna Pillai exhorted the Kerala Congress workers in 1985.

Though Pillai initially denied making the remarks, then Youth Congress leader G Karthikeyan took it up and sought his resignation. It also came up before the High Court. With sedition charges being levelled against him, Pillai had to finally step down.