CPM raps Saji Cheriyan for anti-Constitution speech, minister unlikely to quit

Minister Saji Cherian.
Minister Saji Cheriyan. File Photo.

The ruling CPM on Wednesday criticised Kerala Minister Saji Cheriyan, who is at the centre of an anti-Constitution speech controversy, in strong words. The top state leadership of the CPM slammed the state minister for fisheries and culture for giving an opportunity for the political rivals to attack the party and the government, Manorama News reported.

Cheriyan was advised that he should have been vigilant and shown restraint in his choice of words. However, it is learned that the party is unlikely to seek immediate resignation of the minister, the report said.

The government is awaiting a legal advice from the advocate general about the consequences of the speech in which the minister denounced the Constitution, terming it exploitative. The party is likely to consider asking Cheriyan to step aside in case a police case is registered against him. At least five complaints have been lodged with the police against his speech while opposition parties, Congress and BJP, have requested Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to seek Cheriyan's resignation for insulting the Constitution and its architects.

Cheriyan was rapped at the available state secretariat of the CPM which met at the AKG Centre in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday in the wake of the controversy over the speech.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, A Vijayaraghavan and T P Ramakrishnan attended the available secretariat in which Cheriyan joined later. Cheriyan is also a member of the CPM state secretariat.

Coming out after the meeting, Cheriyan reiterated that he need not resign following the controversy over the remarks he made denouncing the Constitution in a recent speech.

"Why should I? I have already explained everything yesterday," the minister told media persons who asked him about the possibility of his resignation.

Earlier in the day, the opposition members staged a protest outside the Kerala Legislative Assembly demanding resignation of Saji Cheriyan and alleging that the ruling Left front was trying to avoid discussing the issue.

The opposition protested in front of the statue of Dr B R Ambedkar, outside the assembly, after the entire session was adjourned by Speaker M B Rajesh just a few minutes after the question hour began.

Speaking to reporters, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the assembly, V D Satheesan alleged that the ruling front and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan were avoiding questions being raised by the UDF against Cheriyan.

Satheesan said the opposition moved a notice for adjournment to discuss the controversial remarks by Cheriyan and when there was no response to that, they initially raised slogans from the seat and only later moved into the well of the House and protested under the Speaker's dais.

He claimed that it was some of the ruling front MLAs who first left their seats and only after that did some opposition members leave their seats.

Satheesan also claimed that it was 'unprecedented' that the day's session was called off by the Speaker.

The LoP alleged that the remarks of Cheriyan against the Constitution were similar to the views of RSS.

The CM should demand his resignation or he should be removed from his position, he said.

In the visuals aired by some TV channels, the Kerala minister could be seen saying in a recent event that the Constitution of the country "condones exploitation" and is written in a way helping to "plunder" the people of the country.

Later, in a statement given in the state Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, Cheriyan said news reports claiming he had criticised the Constitution at an event held at Mallappally in Pathanamthitta district were "distorted".

Cheriyan's remarks against the Constitution have resulted in protests by the BJP and Congress in various parts of the state seeking his resignation. Effigies of the minister were also burnt.

Both Congress and BJP have also forwarded complaints to the Governor's office seeking his intervention in the matter and alleging that the minister's remarks were unconstitutional and therefore, he should be removed from his post.

Factional feud behind video leak?
Meanwhile, the controversy has caused an upset within the local unit of the party which organised the event in which Cheriyan delivered the speech.
Delegates who attended a meeting of the Mallappally area committee wanted to know how the speech became public. It is alleged that the controversial portions of the speech were leaked to media as part of the factional feud within the party. A video of the full speech was posted on the Facebook page of the area committee. It was removed as soon as the controversy erupted.

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