CHENNAI: Almost 25 years after the showdown between then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Governor M Chenna Reddy from 1993 to 1995, history seems to be repeating itself in Tamil Nadu with Chief Minister MK Stalin and Governor RN Ravi facing off for the past many months.
On January 5, 1994, Tamil Nadu Assembly passed two Bills to remove Governor as Chancellor of 13 State universities and make CM the Chancellor. The Bills introduced by then Education Minister K Ponnusamy also provided for dismissal of Vice-Chancellors.
While LK Advani, Mulayam Singh Yadav and VN Gadgil were among those who criticised Jayalalithaa for the move at the national-level, a Tamil Nadu Congress functionary challenged the legislations before the Madras High Court stating that the move went against the Constitution. He also contended that if the Governor gives his assent to the Bills, there would be too much political interference in the administration of the universities.
Two weeks later, Chenna Reddy clearly indicated that he would not give his assent to the Bills. “Once the political head (CM) becomes the Chancellor, the UGC would stop its 54% grant and students would be affected. I cannot ruin the career of thousands of youngsters,” Reddy said in an interview.
The then Governor also quoted another incident. “NT Rama Rao started the Telugu University and proclaimed himself as the Chancellor. I criticised him for this and when I became the CM, I relinquished the Chancellor post and gave it to the Governor,” Reddy said.
During the height of the tussle, Raj Bhavan issued a detailed statement on issues it had with the AIADMK government. Immediately, the J Jayalalithaa government issued a hard-hitting rejoinder and termed certain charges of the Raj Bhavan as imaginary.
A year later, in April 1995, the Tamil Nadu Assembly demanded the recall of Chenna Reddy charging that he was acting in an unconstitutional manner to destabilise an elected popular government. The resolution proposed by then Finance Minister VR Nedunchezhiyan was taken up for discussion by waiving the rule that prohibited discussion on the conduct of Governor in the floor of the House.
- Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy explained the necessity for such a Bill. “Governor is a nominated executive of the State. The Chief Minister is the real executive. So, the Chief Minister should be made the Chancellor of the universities,” he added
- According to the present procedure, the Governor makes the appointment of V-Cs from a panel of three names recommended by a selection committee.
- The Bills referred to the Acts in Gujarat, Telangana and Karnataka which give powers to the respective State government to appoint the V-Cs