The opposition Congress and BJP have called for the resignation of Kerala minister Saji Cheriyan whose harsh criticism of the Constitution has triggered a controversy in the state.
The Congress has urged Chief Minister Vijayan to remove Cheriyan from the cabinet or face stringent legal action. Cheriyan, the two-time MLA from Chengannur constituency, is the fisheries and culture affairs minister in the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government.
Speaking at a party event recently, Cheriyan, a CPM member, harshly criticised the Constitution, saying it "condones exploitation" and is written in a way helping to "plunder" the people of the country.
The opposition parties have demanded that Cheriyan resign as minister as he has violated his oath with his remarks on the Constitution. The Governor also intervened, with his office taking serious note of the speech.
"A minister who has taken an oath that he will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution has denounced it without any basis. He has insulted the architects of the Constitution, including Dr B R Ambedkar. He doesn't have any right to continue as a minister,” Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly V D Satheesan said.
The Congress leader alleged that the CPM minister used the Constitution to divert attention from the political criticism his party and government have been facing. "That's improper," he said.
"Where did Cheriyan get the idea that the Constitution is anti-workers and exploitative? Has he ever read it? Does he have any idea of the greatness of the Constitution and the serenity people attach to it," Satheesan asked.
Satheesan said the Congress would move legally against the minister if he doesn't step down.
CPM leadership must react: Sudhakaran
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran asked why did Cheriyan take oath as a minister if he did not believe in the Constitution. He said the CPM and the RSS did not have any respect to the Constitution.
“Cheriyan has questioned the very identity of the country by denouncing its Constitution. The CPM's central leadership should make its stand on the matter clear. Cheriyan should step down immediately or the chief minister should oust him from his cabinet,” Sudhakaran said.
BJP terms Cheriyan remarks obscene
BJP state president K Surendran also demanded Cheriyan's resignation. He termed Cheriyan's remarks a blunder and obscene.
"Cheriyan's statements reflect the Communists' irreverence towards the Constitution," Surendran said.
Guv seeks details
Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Tuesday asked his staff to get him the details of the minister's speech. His office is likely to issue a statement on the matter later in the day. Social activist Payichira Nawaz has filed a complaint with the governor requesting him to seek Cheriyan's resignation.
Former Kerala High Court Judge B Kemal Pasha also said Cheriyan has no right to continue in the post after denigrating the Constitution. "
What the minister said was unbecoming of any literate person," he said.
What Cheriyan said
The minister made the controversial remarks while speaking at a recent political programme at Mallappally in Pathanamtthitta district and the issue came to light after visuals of the speech were aired by regional television channels on Tuesday.
"We all say that we have a beautifully written Constitution in India...the most significant aspect of the country. But, I will say, a beautiful Constitution, which can serve to loot the most number of people, was written in the country," he said.
The minister also alleged that the Constitution, which has been in force for the last 75 years, was "compiled by the British'' and it was written as such by an Indian.
Values like "secularism" and "democracy", the "kuntham and kodachakram" (spear and wheel) were just inscribed on its (Constitution) sides, he added.
The minister said he won't agree with anyone who preaches the other way in the country.
Stating ours is a country which does not accept workers' protests, he said "Indian Constitution is one which condones the (labour) exploitation the most," and claimed this was the reason certain "millionaires" in the corporate sector have grown in the country.
The CPM has sought a clarification from the minister and the party's Pathanamthitta district leadership on the issue.