New Delhi: Saji Cheriyan's fate in the second Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet was sealed by Wednesday morning itself with the CPM's central and state leaderships deciding to seek his resignation.
Cheriyan, who held the Fisheries, Culture and Youth Affairs portfolios, later told the media that the decision to step down was personal. CPM leaders, however, viewed the resignation as a punishment for voicing blunders that put the party on the defensive. He was dropped from the cabinet for acts that contradicted the party's political interests.
Party national secretary Sitaram Yechury had given clear indication that Cheriyan was on his way out when the former met the media here around 2 pm on Wednesday. Yechury told reporters that the State leadership would announce the action that has to be initiated against Cheriyan.
It was, however, learnt that the State leadership sought more time to act against Cheriyan, to decide on whether his resignation should be announced in the Assembly since the House was in session and to assign his portfolios to others.
The leadership concluded to fix the time of announcement after considering the case before the court. Cheriyan justified that he had not insulted the Constitution, but was critical of the administration. The CPM, however, rejected the justification. Instead, it considered his remarks as follows:
•The references were insults. But Cheriyan did not make them on the basis of his political stand. They were uttered in excitement, which went overboard.
•The references were against the party's stand. CPM has been arguing that the BJP and RSS were breaching the values of secularism and democracy as envisaged by the Constitution. But Cheriyan's remark that the Constitution has not seriously considered secular and democratic values, put the party on the defensive.
•Cheriyan said an Indian wrote down the Constitution that the British had dictated, an argument put forth by RSS leader M S Golwalker. Cheriyan reiterating the argument could help the Congress in targeting the party.
Meanwhile, considering the legal advice to the chief minister, the party felt Cheriyan's criticism of the Constitution could not be construed as a breach of oath of office.
The decision to seek Cheriyan's resignation was made without any hassle, leaders privy to the developments hinted. He did not have the backing of anyone in the available politburo that met or any of the state leaders who discussed the matter with the central leadership.
Return to cabinet possible
CPM leaders did not rule out the possible return of Cheriyan to the cabinet after punishment. A decision on this regard would be made after gauging the response of the public towards the controversy and its fallout. The party was not considering a replacement for Cheriyan in the cabinet.
Should Cheriyan resign as MLA?
Besides ministers, MLAs, too, take the oath to uphold the Constitution, and hence Cheriyan should quit as an MLA also, it has been demanded. The oath for MLAs, too, has been included in the Constitution.
The CPM, however, felt that Cheriyan could continue as an MLA since he was not ousted from the cabinet for breaching the oath of office.