The Tamil Nadu Assembly’s first session of the new year on Monday saw the governor walk out amid a standoff with the ruling benches over his omission of key phrases from his customary government-prepared speech, marking developments rare in Indian constitutional history.
The portions skipped by governor R.N. Ravi, who has been involved in a long-running battle of attrition with the DMK government, included a reference to the ruling party’s “Dravidian model of inclusive governance”.
Ravi walked out while chief minister M.K. Stalin was moving a resolution that dispproved of the governor’s deviation from the text, saying it amounted to denying the government’s basic principles and violating the House’s traditions and norms.
Assembly Speaker M. Appavu later told reporters that the governor’s walkout before the playing of the national anthem, which concluded the day’s proceedings, was “an insult to our nation”.
The drama on the floor of the House snowballed into a social media debate between supporters and critics of the ruling DMK, with “#GetOutRavi” trending on Twitter.
The state BJP threw its weight behind Ravi, describing as “disrespectful and amateurish” Stalin’s moving a resolution against him while the governor was still seated in the House. The AIADMK, which had walked out before Ravi, called Stalin’s act “indecent”.
Ravi had made a reference on his own to Swami Vivekananda but omitted the names of B.R. Ambedkar and several Dravidian stalwarts — including the late E.V. Ramasamy “Periyar”, C.N. Annadurai, K. Kamaraj and M. Karunanidhi — that were in the text.
Members of the DMK’s allies attempted to disrupt his speech by rushing to the well and chanting slogans. But Ravi continued, sticking to major portions of the text on the state government’s initiatives, especially in the social sectors like education and health.
He, however, skipped the part referring to the “Dravidian model” that the text said was founded on the ideals of social justice, self-respect, inclusive growth, equality, women’s empowerment, secularism and compassion towards all. He also omitted the references to the state taking all necessary measures to ensure peace.
While moving the resolution, Stalin said a draft of the speech had been sent to the governor’s office well in advance and had been printed and circulated among MLAs only after his approval.
“Despite the governor’s actions being totally contrary to our Dravidian model of governance and policies and unacceptable to our government, we with dignity abided by the House rules and did not show our protest even after the governor began his address (with a preface different from the prepared one),” Stalin said.
The resolution said the governor’s additions to the text, and the key phrases that he omitted, would not be part of Assembly records.
Many DMK supporters took to social media to laud Stalin for his resolution and demanded Ravi’s ouster.
The governor and the ruling DMK and its allies have sparred over many issues including his long delay in approving a bill seeking to exempt the state from implementing the NEET — the national medical entrance test.
Ravi has also angered the DMK and its allies — including the Congress, Left parties and the Vaiko-led MDMK — with comments about the Dravidian ideology being insular and not pro-Bharat, and about the purported need to rename Tamil Nadu as “Tamizhagam”.
As the governor walked out of the House on Monday, the treasury benches shouted “Long live Tamil Nadu”, reinforcing the idea that the state’s name should not be changed.
The governor’s speech mentioned the government’s “Pongal gift” of Rs 1,000 in cash, a hamper of 1kg rice, 1kg sugar and a sugarcane to each of the 2.19 crore rice card holders under the public distribution system.
It mentioned the monthly assistance of Rs 1,000 to all girl students enrolled in government schools from Class VI to XII, and the “Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme” that benefits 1.14 lakh children daily at 1,545 government primary schools.
Additional reporting by PTI