Newly-appointed Governor of Kerala and a leading moderate Muslim face, Arif Mohammad Khan said on Sunday that his prime responsibility would be to ensure that the government of the day (Left Democratic Front) functions “according to the rule of law”.
“As the representative of the Centre, I would oversee that a duly-elected government carries its duties in accordance with the law,” he said in an exclusive interaction with .
On several occasions, the LDF government, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has been blamed by its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for targeting the cadres of the ”Sangh Parivar”.
On being asked about the selective targeting of political cadres in Kerala, Khan said: “Let me first take the charge. I am here for peace. I am here to unite people. It won”t be appropriate to elaborate on this issue.”
Former Union Minister Khan, who had walked out of the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet and the Congress in 1986 over the controversial Shah Bano case, said that three days back, he was asked by the leadership (at the Centre) whether he would prefer to be out of Delhi.
“I said in the interest of the society and the people at large, I would certainly consider (any such proposal)… and today I am being sent to the God”s own Country. In fact, I came to know from TV channels that I have appointed as the Governor of Kerala.”
During his exclusive interaction with , Khan”s mobile phone kept ringing, and while talking to this reporter, he continued to reply to his well-wishers.
Known for his low profile and people-friendly image, the towering Muslim politician has devoted his last two decades in the study of Vedic literature.
Khan, who had been a minister in the V.P. Singh-led National Front government, had a brief stint with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before joining the BJP. Though he subsequently focussed more on his studies, BJP stalwarts Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani had been consulting Khan on his rich understanding of theological issues right from the early 2000s.
After almost 29 years, Khan is back at the centre stage of politics as he has been given the charge of the most communally volatile state in the country after West Bengal.
Asked about his priorities as Governor, Khan said that it is too early to comment but he would first like to visit the flood-affected places in the state.
“Meeting people affected by floods and ensuring proper relief and rehabilitation work for them is what I hope to do. I paid my last visit to Kerala three years ago. Though born in north India, I would love to be in the far-off south part of the country,” said the Governor designate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have frequently quoted Khan”s valuable role in the triple talaq matter in debates and discourses on multiple platforms, including the Parliament.
The BJP and the RSS leadership also acknowledge Khan”s scholarly skills on Hindu culture and his interpretation of the Upanishad, the Bhagavad Gita and other ancient literature. The RSS was keen that such leading moderate Muslim faces should be given bigger platforms to showcase the new modern Muslim mindset and its acceptability of Hindu culture and traditions.
It was a coincidence that Khan was invited to a function “Imam-e-Hind, Ram”, a Urdu drama based on the character of Lord Ram as described in the ancient Valmiki Ramayan, when his appointment was announced.
“Ram is the soul and spirit of this country. It hardly matters whether I am a Muslim, but the fact remains that the soul of Ram is present in me and everybody living in this great country. Noted 8th century Arab traveller and historian, Al-Masudi, has also said that Hindus were not polytheist. They might be worshipping several deities, but they believe in one God. Its unfortunate that some sections have distorted the views on this issue. I believe Ram”s character, virtue and human qualities echo in every religion,” he said.
He finally said that it is a coincidence that on a day when he is releasing the book on Ram, his appointment as Governor of Kerala has come as a pleasant surprise.