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Northeast no-go for governor

Chennai, Oct. 29: Tamil Nadu's P.S. Ramamohan Rao became the third governor to quit this week, putting in his papers today after the Supreme Court refused an interim order on the state's renewed plea to stop his likely transfer.

Rao faxed his resignation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam this afternoon. A Raj Bhavan press release said Rao would relinquish the post 'with effect from November 2'.

Yesterday, Bihar governor M. Rama Jois had sent his resignation to the President, seeking to step down from November 1. On Monday, Rajasthan's Madan Lal Khurana had quit. His resignation was accepted yesterday.

It is learnt that Andhra Pradesh governor S.S. Barnala may be sent to Tamil Nadu.

Rao explained in a written media statement that he was informed two weeks ago of the Centre's decision to shift him to a northeastern state.

He said he would be 'happy to go home' if the Centre could not accommodate him in some other state as 'family reasons' prevented him from taking up an assignment in the Northeast.

'It has since been conveyed to me that the Government of India has not found it possible to accommodate me in any other state. Hence the resignation,' the statement said.

The move is not unexpected as the ruling ADMK and the DMK had faced off over the latter's alleged 'political pressure' to get Rao, appointed by the National Democratic Alliance government, out of Tamil Nadu. The DMK is a prominent ally in the Congress-led Centre.

DMK chief M. Karunanidhi had said his party was not 'pressuring' the Centre. But he was not happy with Rao, who had given assent to some controversial bills and allegedly not taken note of the 'deteriorating' law and order.

The latest issue was his 'inaction' after a recent violent ward bypoll to the Chennai corporation that the ADMK won.

In today's petition to the apex court, the Jayalalithaa government said it had heard from the Union home ministry that the governor would be removed because he did not host the customary tea party at Raj Bhavan on Independence Day. Rao was in Athens in August for the Olympics.

The state had earlier pleaded that the Centre be restrained by an interim order from removing, changing or shifting the governor till the disposal of a public interest litigation that challenges the constitutional validity of removing governors. The Supreme Court had refused an interim order on Monday.

The state had last week sent a 'telegraphic writ petition' both to the President and the Chief Justice of India, claiming that the DMK was exerting 'pressure' for Rao's removal and thus trying to 'overreach' the issue pending before the apex court.

Rao, a former director-general of Andhra Pradesh police who became governor about three years ago, took the opportunity to rebut the criticism against him, point-by-point.

Stating he should be 'credited with sufficient sense of judgement in assessing law and order situations', Rao said that after a representation from the Opposition in late 2003, he had made his 'assessment of the situation' and 'sent a detailed report to' the Centre.

'Disagreement in perception could by no stretch of the imagination be construed as the failure to appreciate the situation or as an inclination to bestow favour on the state government.'

Rao said his nod to the bill against forcible religious conversions (later rescinded by the state) was based on a 'unanimous judgment of the nine-member bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by the then chief justice and consisting of four judges of minority communities'.

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