Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s bid to get the vice-chancellors of nine universities to resign has sparked a huge political storm in the southern state, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday issuing a stern warning to the constitutional ruler not to overstep the limits of his powers. Meanwhile, the ruling LDF has announced two-day nationwide protests to begin on Tuesday. Amid rising tensions between the Raj Bhavan and the Left government, Khan, using his powers as chancellor, issued show-cause notices to the vice-chancellors of nine universities after they refused to submit their resignations to him by 11.30 am on Monday as per his directive on Sunday. The chancellor has until November 3 to respond.

The “extraordinary steps” initiated by Khan also led to a legal battle with eight vice-chancellors challenging the chancellor’s move in the Kerala High Court. The High Court held a special meeting on Monday evening, despite it being Diwali, and ordered that the vice-chancellors can continue to hold their respective posts and they can be removed only after following due process. Justice Devan Ramachandran, who heard the urgent plea of ​​the eight vice-chancellors, said the notice sent by the chancellor was not proper.

The court noted that since the chancellor had given the vice-chancellors until November 3 to show reasons why they should not be fired, the resignation notice had lost its relevance. In their pleadings, the venture capitalists told the court that the Chancellor’s actions in demanding their resignation within 24 hours were illegal, if not inappropriate. At a press conference, Khan justified his actions against the vice-chancellors, saying the notices were issued to uphold a Supreme Court verdict that had declared “null and void ab initio” any appointment to the post of vice-chancellor made on the recommendation of the Search Committee. which is constituted against the provisions of the UGC Regulations.

Read | Kerala governor issues show-cause notices to VCs of 11 universities after they refuse to resign

“Now they have refused to resign. Official notices have now been published,” Khan said. The Governor also rejected Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s allegations that natural justice was being denied to VCs.

“I only offered an honorable exit. I did not fire them,” said the governor. Earlier, Chief Minister Vijayan had held a press conference in Palakkad in which he lashed out at Khan for seeking the resignation of vice-chancellors and said the governor had no such powers.

Accusing Khan of acting against the Constitution and the essence of democracy, the CM alleged that the Governor’s move was an encroachment on the powers of the democratically elected government and the universities, which are supposed to be academically independent. Vijayan called the governor’s move “extraordinary” and accused him of “waging a war” with the intention of “destroying” the state’s universities.

“It was the governor who appointed the ECs of these nine universities and if these appointments were made illegally, the primary responsibility lies with the governor himself,” the chief minister said, adding that the chancellor had no power to seek their resignation. Responding to Vijayan, the governor said that if one is into cheppadividya (juggling), a dose of small pippidis (tricks) is needed.

“If you are fond of cheppadividya…then it has become absolutely necessary to give a dose of pippidi,” the governor said at a press conference. The governor used colloquial Malayalam terms to hit back at the chief minister in response to Vijayan’s use of the word ‘pipidi’ in his earlier remarks against Khan.

Later, while addressing a public meeting organized by the CPI(M) in Palakkad, Vijayan continued his attack on the governor, claiming that Khan would not be able to go beyond his constitutional powers. “You have powers and privileges because you are the governor. You must act within that authority. You cannot move an inch beyond this limit. You have constitutional authority. These powers make it very clear that you have to act on the advice of the state government,” the chief minister said.

Meanwhile, the ruling CPI(M) LDF has announced a two-day protest against the governor from tomorrow, accusing him of working under the directives of the RSS. In a statement, LDF chief EP Jayarajan said Kerala is moving forward, strongly defending the Sangh Parivar’s agenda of taking over the higher education sector. “Strong opposition to such a move to destroy Kerala’s education sector should come from all the people who love the state,” the LDF leader said and called for a broad popular movement against the Raj Bhavan’s alleged move against universities. Meanwhile, the Congress-led UDF has split on the issue, with one section siding with Khan and the other opposing the LDF government.

While AICC general secretary KS Venugopal said the Kerala governor’s actions were the latest attempt by the central government to interfere in the higher education sector across the country in violation of democratic and constitutional values, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the governor was seeking his resignation. VC on the basis of the verdict of the Supreme Court. “The ADS still stands by its view that the appointment of VCs in universities is a state political appointment,” Chenitalo said. Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan also echoed an almost similar voice heard on Chennithala. However, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a key partner of the UDF, criticized the governor’s actions.

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