Opinion | SC message in Kerala assembly case: Sivankutty must quit as education minister

V Sivankutty standing atop a table during the ruckus in the Legislative Assembly in 2015 during KM Mani's Budget presentation.
V Sivankutty and other LDF legislators entering the Speaker's podium during the ruckus in the Legislative Assembly in 2015 during KM Mani's Budget presentation. File photo: Manorama

The Supreme Court's verdict in a case relating to the 2015 ruckus in the Kerala Assembly is a tight slap on the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the state. The apex court verdict that the then LDF MLAs, including present Education Minister V Sivankutty, have to face trial in a criminal case has come as a huge blow to the Left government's move to save the accused leaders, latching on to technicalities of assembly procedures and purported loopholes in the existing laws.

The immediate takeaway of the verdict is simple and straight – Sivankutty is not eligible to continue as the school Education Minister of Kerala. The pick of Sivankutty, a popular comrade in Thiruvananthapuram, as the Education Minister had raised many an eyebrow as his posturing inside the assembly – standing on a table with folded dhoti – had become 'iconic' of the mayhem unleashed by the Left MLAs in the assembly. Sivankutty was so violent with his street heroics in the House that by the end of the day he collapsed. A viral troll that day summed up the assembly bedlam with the caption reading, 'KM Mani tables budget, LDF tables Sivankutty'. When criticism was raised against the decision to make Sivankutty the Education Minister, the CPM's propaganda machinery faced it with its classic style. They painted the critics as feudalists who are intolerant against the rise of a people's leader. The SC verdict makes such bizarre defence null and void. The verdict, though not a final one in the case, makes it clear that the sheer vandalism in the assembly cannot escape the clutches of law.

LDF legislators flinging the Speaker's chair from the podium
LDF legislators flinging the Speaker's chair from the podium. File photo: Manorama

The CPM-led Left front resorted to violence in the assembly to prevent the then Finance Minister K M Mani from presenting the budget. They justified the violence with a high moral posturing. To them, Mani was corrupt to the core and the violent episode was only a natural reaction of the Opposition. However, the Left front's moral bankruptcy was exposed when it joined hands with K M Mani's Kerala Congress (M) after his death. Mani, absolved of the charges against him, is just short of a saint to Pinarayi Vijayan's CPM now.

Retaining Sivankutty as a minister with the key portfolio of school education would be highly unethical. The only justification for that would be some teachers' logic behind making the most troublesome kid the class monitor. Of course it would be unfair to raise a finger at Sivankutty alone when five others are facing prosecution for the same charges. Still the call to strip the senior comrade of his cabinet post assumes more significance as he is the face of the second Pinarayi government's policies on school education, a key aspect of the character formation of the next generation. Had the verdict come during the term of the first Pinarayi government, K T Jaleel, another accused, would have had to face all the present arguments against Sivankutty as he was the Higher Education Minister then. This doesn't mean that ethical concerns are applicable only to those holding education portfolio. It's just that the mandate of the portfolio makes the arguments stronger.

Kerala Education Minister V Sivankutty at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala Education Minister V Sivankutty at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

Sivankutty, meanwhile, has made it clear that he has no plan to quit. Instead, he resorted to lofty rhetoric on a Communist's life and revolts while responding to the court order. The point here is that the School Education Minister of Kerala should not be someone with the 'revolutionary instincts' of a student leader.

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