Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan asserted his role as an independent authority, emphasizing that he is “not a rubber stamp” who can be coerced into signing bills by the state government. His comments came during a visit to Thodupuzha in Idukki district, where he faced protests from various youth outfits affiliated with the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).
The governor’s visit coincided with a ‘hartal’ called by the LDF in Idukki against his refusal to sign the Kerala Government Land Assignment (Amendment) Bill 2023, which was passed by the state Assembly in September of the previous year. The CPI(M) had called for the bandh.
Addressing an event organized for the inauguration of a welfare scheme by Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, a traders’ body, Governor Khan addressed the protests, saying, “I have been told that the complaint is that I have not signed the Land Assignment Bill. I have already said that we received many petitions against this Bill passed by the Assembly.”
Khan clarified, “I am not a rubber stamp. I have said it repeatedly. I have a duty to uphold the constitutional law, and I also have a duty to ensure that the interest and welfare of the people of Kerala are not compromised by anybody.”
The governor’s office has been engaged in a prolonged tussle with the state government over multiple issues. Despite protests during his visit, Khan dismissed the demonstrators, stating, “I did not feel threatened.” He urged the use of “the force of the argument” rather than “the argument of force” in a democracy.
Reflecting on historical challenges he faced, Khan said, “In 1985, 86, and 87, I faced real threats. Five attempts were made on my life. I did not feel threatened even when I was 35.”
Despite concerns of a potential law and order breakdown in Idukki, the governor’s visit remained largely peaceful. As Khan’s convoy left the venue for Kochi, CPI(M) activists waved black flags and displayed banners against him. The police effectively managed the situation, allowing the governor to proceed.
Responding to the governor’s statements, CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan urged Khan to promptly pass the bills. Govindan emphasized the need for the governor to understand the broader perspective, stating, “Thodupuzha is not the real Idukki. Kerala will not accept the saffronisation of the state and the implementation of the RSS agenda. Our farmers will not accept it. So just sign the bill quickly.