Chennai: Stoking yet another row, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi on Monday stormed out of the Assembly after refusing to read his address to the House, prepared by the DMK government, which was critical of the Centre on GST compensation, besides declaring that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will be not implemented in the state.
On the first day of the Assembly in 2024, Ravi stated that reading the address, containing "numerous passages" with which he "convincingly" disagreed on "moral and factual grounds," would constitute a "constitutional travesty". Additionally, the governor accused the DMK administration of not demonstrating "due respect" to the national anthem by playing it at the beginning and end of the address.
However, Speaker M Appavu said the convention of the Tamil Nadu Assembly is to begin the governor’s address with Tamil Thai Vaazhthu (state song) and end the speech with the national anthem.
Despite this, Ravi departed from the House even before the national anthem was played at the end of the address, which was read out by the Speaker.
As soon as the House convened, the Governor rose from his chair to say that his repeated requests and advice to show "due respect" to the national anthem by playing it at the beginning and end of the address had been ignored.
“This address has numerous passages with which I convincingly disagree on factual and moral grounds. Lending my voice to them would constitute a constitutional travesty,” Ravi said.
“Hence, with respect to the House, I conclude my address and wish this house a healthy discussion for the good of people. Vaazhga Tamil Nadu and Vaazhga Bharatham. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat, Nandri,” the Governor concluded.
However, Appavu read out the Tamil version of the prepared text before the House and inquired whether the Governor would consent to allocating funds to Tamil Nadu for flood relief from the "unaccounted" PM Cares funds.
“Everyone has their own opinion. Despite disagreements, the government and the Chief Minister (M K Stalin) have accorded due respect to the government,” he said, and allowed Leader of the House Durai Murugan to address the House.
Durai Murugan, a veteran legislator, moved a resolution to “take on record” only the prepared text of the Governor’s address.
Even as the minister began to speak, the Governor abruptly exited the House, evoking memories of January 9, 2023, when Ravi similarly departed after Stalin proposed a resolution to acknowledge only the prepared text, following Ravi's omission of certain portions and inclusion of his own commentary.
Constitutional experts have raised questions about whether the President of India can refuse to deliver a speech prepared at the instance of the elected Union Government.
“We live in a parliamentary system and Governor Ravi has no discretion in reading it or tabling it before the legislature. No comment, no deletion can be allowed,” senior counsel Sanjay R Hedge said.
The address, delivered on Monday, declared that the state would never permit the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and vowed to protect the rights of minorities and Sri Lankan Tamil brethren. This announcement closely follows Union Home Minister Amit Shah's assertion that the legislation will be enacted before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Quoting Tamil poet Kanian Poongundranar who said "yaadhum oore, yaavarum kelir" (all towns are one and all are our people), the address said the idea of unity in diversity is facing a grave threat in our nation and that the Government remains steadfast in its commitment to protect and preserve the communal harmony in the state.
“We stand with minorities and our Sri Lankan Tamil brethren, as we pledge to protect their rights. This government will never permit the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act in our state and vows to take all necessary measures in this regard,” the address said.
The Governor's address also criticised the Centre for terminating the GST compensation regime in June 2022, resulting in an annual loss of Rs 20,000 crore for the state, and urged it to extend the compensation regime further.
Additionally, the address accused the Union Government of "reneging" on its promise to provide its share in the Chennai Metro Rail Phase-II project by not allocating funds for the project and approving it.