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A political row erupted in Tamil Nadu today over Governor Banwarilal Purohit meeting government officials in Coimbatore as DMK and other opposition parties claimed that it amounted to interference in the state's rights. Amid the strong reactions a day after the meeting, Purohit today inspected one of the main bus stands in Coimbatore, swept a bus bay and removed garbage as part of a cleanliness drive under the Centre's 'Swachh Bharat' initiative. The governor, who was accompanied by state Municipal Administration Minister S P Velumani and district officials, said he would visit the district as well as the other districts every year and expressed hope that the city would remain clean. DMK working president M K Stalin, leaders of the Congress, CPI(M), CPI, PMK and even deposed AIADMK deputy chief T T V Dhinakaran flayed the governor for holding the meeting with the top district officials of Coimbatore. Stalin, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, alleged that this was an attempt by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and the governor to "take away the authority vested by the people" in an elected government. Purohit holding such meetings like "an elected governor is regrettable... I want to say that the DMK strongly opposes such meetings of the governor," he said in a statement here. However, the BJP state unit backed the governor, saying he did not exceed his brief as alleged by the opposition parties. Purohit, who assumed office last month, held the meeting yesterday during his visit to Coimbatore to take part in the convocation of the city-based Bharathiar University. District Collector T N Hariharan, Police Commissioner A Amalraj (who has since been transferred), Superintendent of Police P Murthy and Corporation Commissioner and Special Officer K Vijayakarthikeyan were among those who attended the meeting, which was held at the Circuit House. A fringe outfit, the Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, had come out against the meeting yesterday itself, calling it an "unprecedented interference" in the functioning of the district administration. However, state Higher Education Minister K P Anbalagan and Velumani, who were in the city, have maintained that such meetings do not affect the state's autonomy. Stalin claimed that the governor's post was a "decorative" one and that the person occupying the post was just a representative of the Union government. "A governor holding a meeting by interfering in the state administration is not good for Centre-state relations. It also does not befit the high office of the governor," he said in the statement. Such meetings would lead to "two secretariats" as confusion would prevail among the officials whether to focus on a meeting chaired by the chief minister or the governor and this would lead to a "complete collapse of the government administration," he added. Stalin also flayed Chief Minister E Palaniswami for not speaking out on the matter. The DMK leader also reminded Purohit about the demand made by his party and others with the previous governor, seeking a floor test for the Palaniswami government, in view of a section of the pro-Dhinakaran AIADMK MLAs, who were later disqualified, expressing a lack of confidence in the chief minister. Instead of holding such meetings, Purohit should use his powers to order the floor test, he said. Stalin also alluded to the differences between Puducherry Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy in the neighbouring union territory over the former's style of functioning and said, "Tamil Nadu is not Puducherry." Dhinakaran, locked in a bitter battle for power with Palaniswami, said the episode must be seen as a "preview" to the ouster of the incumbent state government. "The Tamil Nadu governor's meeting amounts to interference with the state government's rights.
The people of the state want to see the anti-people Palaniswami government go. This (meeting) should be seen as a preview to that," he said, adding that former chief minister, late J Jayalalithaa, would not have allowed such meetings during her regime. Dhinakaran also referred to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and Congress government in Puducherry, which are at loggerheads with their respective LGs. PMK leader and Lok Sabha member Anbumani Ramadoss said though the governor's meeting was "well-intentioned", it amounted to "interfering" in the state government's authority. CPI(M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan said the governor "exceeded his brief" by holding such a meeting. State Congress chief Su Thirunavukkarasar, MDMK founder Vaiko, CPI state secretary D Mutharasan and VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan also opposed the meeting. Defending the governor, state BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, in a tweet, said the meeting was only aimed at ensuring the state's welfare and wondered why were some people "afraid, if good things happen" to Tamil Nadu. Purohit also inspected a modern solid waste management system at a residential society and the e-toilets at the Gandhipuram bus stand today and lauded the officials for their initiatives in this regard. He said Coimbatore would soon become the cleanest city in the country. Purohit said he had earlier felt that the people of his native state, Maharashtra, were the best when it came to maintaining toilets and waste management. "Now, after visiting the cities in Tamil Nadu, my opinion has changed," he said during an interaction with residents' welfare associations and NGOs on solid waste management. Stating that Tamil Nadu had a 89.2-per cent literacy rate, which was higher than the national average, the governor said Coimbatore was one of the four cities in the state which attracted industrial investments.
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