September 19, 2022, will have a unique place in the political history of Kerala. Governor Arif Mohammad Khan called a special press conference at Raj Bhavan to lash out against “his own” government. Notably, governor Khan came to the presser wearing the typical Malayali attire of mundu and kurta. And, during the presser, he repeatedly said that his appeal is to the people of Kerala.
In the one-and-half-hour-long session, he patiently answered almost all questions from the journos. On September 18, Khan accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had sought some favours from him. There was an expectation that Khan would present some evidence for his allegation. However, he decided not to give any evidence and chose not to answer what favours the CM had sought.
He started the news conference announcing that he would show a senior functionary who is now working in the CMO preventing the police from discharging their functions when Khan had allegedly faced heckling at the History Congress at Kannur University in 2019. He then showed two clips to media persons. Khan was referring to K.K. Ragesh, the current private secretary of CM Vijayan, who was then a Rajya Sabha member.
Ragesh who was on the dais with the governor in the initial clip was seen talking to police and anti-CAA protesters in the second clip. Showing the clips, the governor raised the question of whether Ragesh was rewarded [with CM’s PS post] for stopping the police from exercising their duties.
When questions about his decision to reappoint Kannur University vice chancellor Gopinath Ravindran came, Khan took the stance that he had made a mistake. This is a stance he had taken earlier also. As before, he reiterated the view that the chief minister put direct pressure on him for Ravindran’s reappointment. He said that though the governor’s office did not seek any legal advice, the higher education ministry took a legal opinion from the advocate general and handed it over to him. “That was a pressure tactic. My hands were tied with the legal opinion from AG,” he said.
The governor then cited that these same pressure tactics are being continued even now, and he found the ruling party’s ideology the root cause for such tactics. There was a conscious effort from the governor to frame certain answers in such a way that would place him as an ideological opponent of chief minister Vijayan and his party. Governor Khan hinted that the ruling party believes in a “foreign ideology” that permits the use of force against its “class enemies”—the political opponents. And, when the question about his recent meeting with RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat was raised, Khan responded: “If you have the right to be loyal to an ideology, which has not originated in India, which believes in the use of force, I do not have the right to have friendship with the RSS?"
In an earlier interview with THE WEEK, the governor had cited that even the alleged “heckling” he faced from historian Irfan Habib in Kannur University had ideological reasons. “The fact is that the [Kannur] VC knew about the assault plan and he invited me to Kannur University so that Habib and others on the dais could carry out the plan. This should not surprise anybody, as Habib and his associates subscribe to a political ideology that endorses the use of force against those who do not agree with their politics and ideology. If one is a party to a conspiracy to assault and overawe someone for political reasons, then it is a criminal act, pure and simple,” he told THE WEEK.
During the presser, the Governor cited the IndiGo flight ban on LDF convenor E.P. Jayarajan—for manhandling two Youth Congress workers protesting against the CM in the flight—former minister Saji Cherian’s allegedly “disparaging” comments against Constitution and former higher education minister K.T. Jaleel’s controversial “Azad Kashmir” remark, to attack the ideology of CPI(M). He said that these leaders are merely doing or repeating what the “foreign” ism of CPI(M) is teaching.
Notably, this “foreign” vs “desi” dichotomy while talking about ideologies, religions and certain personalities is something that can be seen in the writings of many RSS ideologues of different generations. For instance, in Bunch of Thoughts (1966) by the second sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalker, one can see the declaration: “We should shake ourselves free from the mental shackles of foreign ‘isms’ and foreign ways and fleeting fashions of modern life.”
In Ram Madhav’s Twentieth Century: 100 Years of Political Tumult (2021), one would find how the writer describes M.K. Gandhi as someone “rooted in Indian genius” while presenting Jawaharlal Nehru as “someone who never fully appreciated” the same. The RSS ideologue quotes Gandhi to present his view that socialism and communism of the west are based on certain conceptions which are fundamentally different from what is called “Indian”.
By repeatedly calling CPI(M), a party adhering to a “foreign” ideology, the governor is also indirectly peddling the idea that it is not a party that can understand the fundamental issues of the land. And, his appeals to the people of Kerala should be read along with this positioning. The governor announced that his association or relation with RSS started in 1986 when the Sangh supported his decision to resign from the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet when the government brought the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill to reverse the Shah Bano judgment.
During the presser, Khan said that along with RSS, top CPI(M) leader EMS Nampoothiripad also had supported him then. “But after Namboodiripad, the Left changed its stance. They became supporters of the personal law board. RSS, however, consistently supported me. The Left supported me only till 1991.” With clever wordings, governor Khan cited that the CPI(M) has been inconsistent in its ideals and morals and that only RSS has been consistent.
The CPI(M) leadership has alleged multiple times that the governor’s office has become a den of the RSS. The governor has refuted such allegations multiple times. Though he had been an occasional contributor to Organiser and Panchjanya, the official organs of RSS, in the past, Khan was never been an official member of the Hindutva organisation. However, it won't be an overstatement if one says that Khan has— knowingly or unknowingly—become the best ideological weapon for the RSS in Kerala.