Kerala Minister’s remark on Constitution sparks a row

Congress and BJP demand his resignation, Governor says he is monitoring the situation

July 05, 2022 07:22 pm | Updated July 06, 2022 12:15 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Minister for Culture Saji Cherian

Minister for Culture Saji Cherian

A video clip showing Kerala Culture Minister Saji Cherian allegedly speaking “disparagingly” about the Constitution has landed the Left Democratic Front government in the State in a fix.

In the video, Mr. Cherian is seen describing the Constitution as “British-crafted and anti-working class”. He is heard saying the Constitution “condones exploitation” and is written in a way that helps to “plunder” the people of the country.

Mr. Cherian was speaking at a CPI(M) programme at Mallappally in Pathanamthitta on Sunday. The video clip surfaced on social media on Tuesday, The controversial speech has stirring up a political storm in Kerala.

Protests break out

The Congress and the BJP have demanded the Minister’s resignation. Congress workers marched to his office in Alappuzha. Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha workers burned Mr. Cherian in effigy in front of the Secretariat.

However, the government dug its heels in on the issue. Mr. Cherian told the Assembly that the media had misinterpreted his words. His speech was not broadcast in its entirety. “I had only remarked that social justice remained a distant dream for most Indians despite 75 years of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms,” he said.

A BJP delegation led by former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan met Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and pressed the party’s case for expelling Mr. Cherian from the Cabinet.

Mr. Khan later told presspersons that the Raj Bhavan was monitoring the situation. He said the Chief Minister was cognisant of the development.

Both the Congress and the BJP have warned that they would agitate against the government until Mr. Cherian quits office.

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M.A. Baby said Mr. Cherian had dwelt on the current political situation wherein right wing forces were chipping away at the secular and democratic foundations of the Constitution.

The controversial remark could be of significant legal and political consequence to Mr. Cherian.

Some sensed a faint echo, in the current furore, of the stormy political controversy that caused Kerala Congress leader and former Minister R. Balakrishna Pillai’s resignation from the Congress government in 1985. A court had interpreted Pillai’s remark that the federation had failed Kerala and the State should adopt a “Punjab model” agitation as brazenly secessionist and sentenced him to eight months in prison.

Satheesan’s charge

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said Pillai’s remarks were tame compared with Mr. Cherian’s. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should demand his resignation or face public wrath, he said.

KPCC president K. Sudhakaran said Mr. Cherian had denigrated the Constitution’s architect B. R. Ambedkar by insinuating that the founding father had parroted British colonialists.

BJP State president K. Surendran said Mr. Cherian’s words were tantamount to treason. He has penned a letter to Raj Bhavan demanding the latter’s dismissal.

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