The first session of the 15th Kerala Assembly began with the swearing-in of the 137 of the 140 newly elected legislators on Monday.
Pro-tem Speaker P T A Rahim, who was sworn in by Governor Arif Muhammad Khan in the Raj Bhavan on May 21, administered the oath of office to the new legislators.
CPM's U Pratibha (Kayamkulam), CPI's K Babu (Nenmara) and Congress's M Vincent (Kovalam) were not sworn in today as they are in quarantine.
The proceedings is being held under strict COVID-19 protocols. The visitors on the first day have been limited to the media and a maximum of four close relatives each of only first-time MLAs. The relatives watched the proceedings from the R Sankara Narayanan Thambi Members lounge following COVID protocols.
The session, which will have the Governor's Address on May 28 and the presentation of the second Pinarayi Vijayan Government's maiden Budget on June 4, will extend till June 14.
Though the Assembly would witness the continuation of an LDF government, its composition had altered drastically. Nearly 40 per cent of the legislators, 53 of the 140 in the 15th Assembly, are debutants. As many as 17 in the 21-member Pinarayi Vijayan ministry are also newcomers. Speaker-designate M B Rajesh, too, is entering the Assembly for the first time.
The swearing-in was done in alphabetical order. P Abdul Hameed, Muslim League's Vallikkunnu MLA, was the first to take the oath. CPM's Xavier Chitilappally who defeated Anil Akkara in Wadakkancherry was the last person to take the oath.
Pinarayi Vijayan, who scripted his name in the history of the House as the first chief minister in the last four decades to assume office for a second consecutive time, made a solemn affirmation, while some of his cabinet colleagues took oath in the name of the God.
Interestingly, the oath-taking coincided with the birthday of the Marxist veteran.
Manjeswaram MLA AKM Ashraf, who defeated BJP state chief K Surendran with a comfortable majority, grabbed attention as he took the pledge in Kannada language.
Barring a few legislators who took oath in English, the majority of the MLAs used Malayalam, the mother tongue.
RMP leader K K Rema, who represents Vadakara constituency in the House, arrived wearing a badge with the picture of her slain husband T P Chandrasekharan, who was murdered by political goons allegedly with the knowledge of the Marxist party leadership years ago.
The UDF side had the most experienced legislators. Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is winning for the 12th straight time. It is the 10th time for Kerala Congress's P J Joseph. Muslim League's PK Kunhalikutty and Congress's Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan are entering the Assembly for the eighth and seventh time respectively.
Even then, it is a younger, relatively less experienced V D Satheesan who will be taking over as the opposition leader from Ramesh Chennithala.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is among the legislators who are entering the Assembly for the sixth time. Others are: Forest minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader A K Saseendran. Muslim League's Dr M K Muneer and K P A Majeed, and Congress's K Babu.
The UDF has fielded Kundara MLA PC Vishnunadh as the Speaker nominee to CPM's M B Rajesh. The last date for filing nominations for the election of the Speaker is 12 noon on May 24.
The Governor's customary policy address, which will be done for the second time this year, will be on May 28. This will be followed by three days of discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the Governor’s Address on May 31, June 1 and 2. The Governor's first address, the last of the previous Pinarayi Vijayan government's tenure, was made on January 8.
The most awaited day would be June 4, when Finance Minister KN Balagopal will present the revised 2021-2022 Budget, his first Budget speech. Former Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac had presented his Budget on January 15, but it was done at a time when the COVID-19 threat looked to be on the wane. Balagopal will be making his presentation in the middle of an unexpected surge.
Detailed operational guidelines have been issued by Legislature Secretary S. V. Unnikrishnan Nair. Seats inside the House have been spaced out far more than last time to ensure social distancing. Last January, during the last session of the 14th Assembly, at least four legislators had contracted COVID-19.
The Legislature Secretariat will not issue visitors’ pass. Only reporters covering the proceedings will have access to media galleries and key officials to the official’s gallery during the first session. Visuals and video will be provided by the I & PR to the media
Entry will be allowed to only those persons having RT-PCR/TRUNAT/RT-LAMP, Antigen negative results or on the production of a final certificate of COVID-19 vaccination.