Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan provided a bit of surprise by faithfully sticking to the text of the address prepared by the government, which attacked the Modi government’s farm laws and criticised the central agencies for obstructing the state government’s ambitious projects.
During a similar address last year, the governor had omitted paragraphs relating to the Centre’s controversial citizenship laws, over which he had serious differences with the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
Since he had opposed the idea of a special assembly session to pass a resolution against the new farm laws, before finally giving his assent, it was feared that he might similarly omit references to the farm laws as well as criticism of the central investigating agencies in his address to the budget session. But he read out the address in full.
Opposition UDF members tried to obstruct the governor from delivering the speech by shouting slogans against the chief minister and the speaker, and insisted that the speaker had no right to preside over the session in view of his alleged involvement in the gold smuggling, hawala operations.
At one stage, the governor seemed to lose his patience and asked the agitating members to allow him to do his constitutional duty and pointed out that they have already registered their protest by raising slogans.
Following this, the opposition members walked out of the house and continued their protest outside the Assembly hall, where they accused the government of making hollow claims.
Curiously, O Rajagopal, the lone BJP member remained in the house, in continuation of his policy of tolerance for democratic norms, which had prompted him not to vote against the government’s resolution against the Centre’s farm laws in a special one-day session of the house.
The governor said in his address that the actions of certain central agencies have overstepped the constitutional contours and are impeding the development activities and flagship programmes undertaken by the state. This has had a demoralising effect on honest and hard-working officers, he added.
His speech also referred to the farmers agitation and the all-India workers strike against the new labour laws and pointed out that since Kerala was a consumer state, the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, as proposed in the new farm laws, would adversely affect the state.
Speaker Sreeramakrishnan later told newspersons that he has had no intention of blocking the Customs investigations and the intent of the communication by the assembly secretary was only to impress upon the agency about the rules.
Even as he was speaking, his private secretary Ayyappan was answering questions by Customs officials in Kochi about the Speaker’s foreign trips. The questioning continued through the late evening.
Ayyappan presented himself before the investigators after the Customs firmly rejected the Speaker’s assertion of privileges, saying that these privileges were not meant to protect criminals.
His questioning is believed to be the precursor to the summoning of the Speaker, against whom the prime suspects in the gold smuggling, hawala operations have provided incriminating information about his involvement with the clandestine operations.