NCP legislative party leader Thomas K Thomas hogged the Kerala Legislative Assembly’s attention as he launched his maiden speech as a legislator. “I am a firm believer in god,” he started his speech to congratulate the newly elected speaker, M B Rajesh.
He went on to narrate a biblical anecdote of King Solomon, the way evangelists did. The speech was emblematic of the shift in the communist-led Left Democratic Front’s legislative block. The treasury benches have more believers than ever. As much as 17 of the 99 LDF MLAs were sworn in in the name of god, the highest share since the formation of the LDF in 1980. The number would have gone up to 18 had V Abdu Rahman managed to reach the assembly for the swearing-in ceremony. He took oath as a minister in the name of god.
In the previous assembly, only 10 LDF MLAs took office in the name of god and in 2011 a mere seven.
The surge of believers is evident in all constituents of the LDF, except the CPI. Three MLAs from the CPM, five from the Kerala Congress and two from Janata Dal (S) took oath in in the name of god, like Thomas of the NCP, Ramachandran Kadannappally of the Congress (S), Ahmed Devarkovil of the INL, Antony Raju of the Janadhipathya Kerala Congress, K B Ganesh Kumar of the Kerala Congress (B) and K P Mohanan of the LJD.
A majority of the constituents in the 11-party LDF are not shy of their religious moorings. This alliance of believers may be hard for the CPM to ignore, no matter what the Supreme Court rules in the Sabarimala case.
Ministry of believers
The shift is also evident in the LDF cabinet. Six of the 21 ministers took oath in the name of god. This is the first time that a CPM-led ministry contains so many ministers who wear their religious beliefs on their sleeves. Add to that chief whip N Jayaraj, who holds a cabinet rank. This is a crucial change from the first Pinarayi government which led a “renaissance” drive in a polarized society.
Veena George, who contested the election under the CPM’s official symbol, assumed office as health minister in the name of god. This is a far cry from the days of T K Hamza and Paloli Muhammed Kutty. Hamza, a former Congress leader, took a “solemn” oath when he was elected from the CPM fold. Muhammed Kutty also did so though he was once a practicing Muslim.
George’s act becomes revolutionary when we go back to 2006 when the CPM state committee censured Aisha Potty and M M Monayi for taking oath in the name of god in the assembly. The state committee that met on November 4 and 5 of that year said that the party was embarrassed when the two area committee members took oath in the name of god. “Someone who chooses to be a party member stands by dialectical materialism. The comrades who had been party members for a long time and even elected to the area committees had no scruples in revealing their hidden belief in god and insulting the party.”
Ironically, the party was then led by Pinarayi Vijayan, who presides over the present cabinet. He also witnessed an area committee member of the party taking oath as minister in the name of god. Local committee member Antony John and branch committee member Daleema Jojo also took oath in the name of god.
The censuring of Aisha Potty and Monai was also included in a party document for all comrades to take note. All party units were asked to ensure that members stood by the party principles. The CPM has not watered down the stand since. The party and the alliance seem to be shedding their ideological baggage though.