Banwarilal Purohit attempted to reimagine governor’s role

He grabbed headlines both for reviewing govt schemes and implementing austerity measures in Raj Bhavan

Published: 11th September 2021 03:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2021 03:19 AM   |  A+A-

Banwarilal Purohit

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a land known for being the champion of States’ rights, a Governor’s public appearances were mostly reserved for the role of chief guest in school and college events. Banwarilal Purohit will be remembered as a Governor who attempted to change that in his initial days, before abruptly  making a course correction.

Purohit was appointed as Tamil Nadu’s Governor in October 2017  just a few months after Edappadi K Palaniswami took over as Chief Minister. Now, a former high profile Intelligence Bureau official is replacing him, incidentally when a new Chief Minister is just a few months into the office.

Purohit’s initial days at Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s office, were a surprise. His field visits across the State and direct interaction with State government officials created an impression that the Raj Bhavan could turn into a power centre in the State. With the Governor being a representative of the Union government, many read Purohit’s actions as attempts to infringe on the rights of the State.

The Raj Bhavan even released a legal opinion citing the Constitution that the Governor is the head of the executive. This statement ignored the interpretations given by various courts that the Governor is only a figurehead and the real power lies with the elected State governments.

DMK, then the State’s principal Opposition party, stoutly opposed the Governor’s actions. Though the ruling AIADMK felt embarrassed, its ministers maintained that the Governor’s review of government schemes and his meetings with the district collectors did not affect the autonomy of the State government. 
In April 2018, the Governor faced severe criticism when an assistant professor, Nirmala Devi, was arrested on charges of luring girl students for extending sexual favours to senior government officials. Purohit held an unusual press conference in Raj Bhavan that month and strongly denied allegations. He said he had never seen the face of Nirmala Devi.

At the same press meet, Purohit also landed in another controversy when he patted a woman journalist on her cheek without her consent as she was attempting to ask him a question. As suddenly as it started, 
the Governor’s field visits and direct interaction with bureaucrats stopped in mid-2018. The Governor largely stayed away from the limelight till the end of his tenure.

Purohit’s stint also saw many other firsts. Raj Bhavan’s expenditures towards housekeeping and travel of the Governor were drastically cut as part of austerity measures. When Purohit hoisted the Tricolour on Independence Day in 2018 at Raj Bhavan, he became the first Governor in the State to do it in decades. Usually it’s the Chief Minister who hoists the national flag on Independence Day and the Governors do it on Republic day. 

Purohit also banned non-vegetarian food within Raj Bhavan premises. He also leaves without deciding on the State Cabinet’s 2018 recommendation to release the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

AIADMK, PMK and BJP welcome new guv
Chennai: The AIADMK, PMK and BJP on Friday greeted the new Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi on his appointment. “On behalf of the AIADMK, I welcome the appointment of RN Ravi, a retired IPS Officer who played a crucial role in the Naga peace talks, as the Governor of Tamil Nadu,” said O Panneerselvam. Edappadi K Palaniswami lauded Ravi for his performance as the Nagaland Governor. PMK founder S Ramadoss greeted Ravi and requested his support for the State’s growth. BJP State chief 
K Annamalai too welcomed the appointment


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