Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi today spoke his mind about several sensitive issues which have led to bitter exchanges between him and leaders of the ruling DMK. From the controversy over the Bill to make the Chief Minister the Chancellor of state universities, the bill to exempt the state from the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET), to his repeated endorsement of Sanatan Dharma, the Governor defended himself, and also claimed that he has good relations with the state government.
The Governor said he is not duty bound to sign all Bills, and that withholding is a courteous way to say no.
Mr Ravi is facing criticism for withholding a Bill that seeks to make the Chief Minister the Chancellor of state universities, replacing the Governor who serves as the Chancellor now. He hinted the Bill may not be approved. "The Bill appears to be inconsistent with the UGC Act, 1956, which has laid down standards and procedures for higher education institutions," he said. On a specific query of why not let the court decide for a fair ruling than sitting on judgement over a Bill that aims to clip his powers, the Governor said, "I will decide on this. The Constitution allows it. Why should we waste the court's time".
Pointing out that education was in the concurrent list, Mr Ravi said that if there is incompatibility with the Central rules or a Bill is repugnant, it would be difficult to clear it.
On the contentious Bill that seeks scrapping of NEET for medical admissions in Tamil Nadu, which the Governor had sent to the President only after the Supreme Court made some critical observation, he denied the charge of imposing his personal views and running a parallel administration of sorts. "I am here to assist the state, not to transgress the constitution," he said.
Chief Minister MK Stalin has alleged that NEET is an attempt to confine medical education to a few and that it was a "modern knowledge untouchability". BJP President JP Nadda had also recently attacked the DMK for opposing NEET, calling its leaders "uneducated".
The Governor's repeated endorsement of Sanatan Dharma in his addresses to various groups has also touched a raw nerve of the ruling DMK, which prides itself in being a rationalist party. DMK had underscored that "it's the constitution that rules India and not Sanatan Dharma or Manu Dharma". The Governor argued that his statements on it are his personal views. "The constitution allows me to share it," he said.
Calling the New Education Policy, which the Tamil Nadu government opposed, "an excellent, transformative policy", Governor Ravi expressed concern over the decline in the rankings of government run universities in the state. The former IPS officer said, "somewhere we have missed. I am trying to improve job prospects by linking universities with industry". Citing poor salary of Rs 7,000 for some guest faculty in government institutions, he expressed concern about losing good talent, comparing the remuneration to "dispensing peanuts for monkeys".
Chief Minister MK Stalin and his cabinet had boycotted the Governor's "at home reception" over his 'undue delay' in forwarding the NEET exemption Bill to the President. Mr Ravi, however, said, "I have good relations with state government and Mr MK Stalin is trying to do his best".
While the opposition has been raising the issue of alleged deteriorating law and order situation in Tamil Nadu, the Governor said, "attacks on oppressed communities and low conviction is a matter of concern".
Responding to a specific question on whether he consciously projects himself to be a mouthpiece of the union government and would he be a different Governor if he was the constitutional head of neighbouring Karnataka which is ruled by the BJP, he said, "I would have been the same even if I was governor of Karnataka".