Why did ‘Brahmanical boys’ deny Kelu, Radhakrishnan their due? Pinarayi playing Modi?

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OR Kelu, K Radhakrishnan. Photo: Onmanorama

Any party that picks a Scheduled Tribe member to be a minister can justifiably claim to have pushed the progressive cause even further. But the CPM in Kerala seems to have opened itself up for some brutal political attack after it chose a leader from the Kurichya tribe as the minister to replace K Radhakrishnan.

It was not OR Kelu's choice as Minister for the Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes that has made the party vulnerable but its decision not to give him the Devaswom Department that was held by Radhakrishnan. Radhakrishnan's exit has also presented a vexing problem for the CPM. For the first time in history, a Cabinet in Kerala does not have a minister from the Scheduled Castes. The Opposition UDF has gone for the kill.

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OR Kelu takes oath as Minister. Photo: Special Arrangement

It was Congress MLA and former minister for Scheduled Castes AP Anil Kumar who led the attack against the CPM in the Assembly on June 24. Before questioning the denial of Devaswom Department to Kelu, Anil Kumar argued that even K Radhakrishnan was discriminated against in the CPM.

"It was three years ago that K Radhakrishnan was sworn in as minister. Then all of you had proudly said that a Dalit was given the charge of Devaswom Department. Mind you, this was long after Uttar Pradesh, where the worst form of casteism in India existed, had a Chief Minister from the Dalits. Yet, in Left-ruled Kerala you said you had given Devaswom to a Dalit," he said while taking part in a budget discussion.

But Anil Kumar wondered whether Radhakrishnan held just symbolic value for the party. "Was that (Devaswom Department) enough for him? This was a man who was in the '96 ministry (EK Nayanar's) along with Pinarayi Vijayan. All of us had expected him to be given other departments along with the department (Welfare of Backward and Scheduled Communities) he had held for five years (in the Nayanar ministry). Why wasn't he?" he said.

The former minister welcomed Kelu's elevation as minister. "I am sure he can perform well. He had been a panchayat member and president," he said. "But why was Kelu not given Devaswom," he said. "Aren't you not a progressive party? If this is how you are behaving, where do you think the CPM is headed to? You could have set an example by offering Devaswom to a Scheduled Tribe member," he said.

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Congress MLA and former minister for Scheduled Castes AP Anil Kumar. File Photo: Manorama

At this point, Excise Minister MB Rajesh intervened to say that it was the CPM that offered Devaswom Department to Radhakrishnan. "Was that such a big favour," Kumar shot back. "Isn't he far senior to you? He was Speaker for five years, he was minister for five years, and he had served as minister along with Pinarayi Vijayan. And now you are taking pride in giving Devaswom to a person of his stature," he said.

Comrades Modi and Pinarayi
Anil Kumar said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was very critical when Kodikunnil Suresh was not made the pro-tem speaker.

"If he thinks that Narendra Modi has done something wrong, then Pinarayi should introspect about his actions here. Both their actions (Modi ignoring Kodikunnil for the pro-tem speaker post and Pinarayi denying Kelu Devaswom and offering Radhakrishnan relatively inferior portfolios) demonstrate that both have the same mindset," Anil Kumar said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File: Manorama

Last two Brahmins
He alleged that the CPM had always adopted an anti-Dalit position. "It was only in the last party Congress that a Dalit (Ramachandra Dome) was made a Politburo member of the party. After 70 years," he said.

"Now most parties have at their top a Dalit leader. The Congress president's name is Mallikarjun Kharge. The CPI, too, has a Dalit at the top. Only two organisations do not have a Dalit at the helm, the RSS and the CPM. The RSS sarsanghachalak and CPM general secretary are the two posts from where the Dalits have been kept out," he said.

Ram Chandra Dome. File photo: Manorama

As further proof of CPM's Dalit discrimination, Anil Kumar pointed out the absence of an SC member in the Pinarayi Cabinet. "Since the first ministry to the last one, there were Dalit ministers in the Assembly. It is for the first time in history that there is no minister from the Scheduled Castes, which form 10% of Kerala's population," he said, and added: "Even while making Kelu a minister why can't you think of making a member from the SC community a minister?"

He said this was proof that it was the hegemony of the upper caste in the CPM. "Ambedkar had once called the undivided Communist party the "Brahmanical boys". You have always had a feudalist mind," he told the CPM members.

He then spoke of the play 'Ningalenne Communistakky'. In that play, just before the curtains come down, the feudal lord Paramu Pillai joins a march taken out by the Communist party. Since Pillai did not have a flag, the one held by the Dalit woman Mala is handed over to him. "This flag is still with the feudal lord. The poor are yet to get it back. Kerala is now ruled by people with the mind of Paramu Pillai," Kumar said.

CH’s fur cap
It was left to the new Devaswom Minister V N Vasavan to defend the CPM record. "With all humility, let me inform Anil Kumar that Kerala had its first Speaker from the Dalit community during the LDF tenure, 15 years ago in 2006 (reference to Radhakrishnan). It was after the Pinarayi ministry came to power that 36 backward class people, including Dalits, were appointed as 'shanthis' in temples. Backward caste people, including Dalits, could enter the 'sreekovil' and perform pujas. This was nothing short of revolution," he said.

Vasavan then said that discrimination was a Congress trait. "Should I say who had forced one of our finest Parliamentarians and former Chief Minister C H Muhammad Koya to remove his cap," he asked. Vasavan was alluding to what happened in 1960 when the Congress insisted that Koya remove his fur cap, a symbol of his Muslim-ness, before swearing in as the Speaker. 

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