Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan created history when he won a consecutive second term in office. The new ministry led by him is expected to be sworn in on May 20, nearly three weeks after the declaration of the Assembly election verdict. The delay, we were told, was on account of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent need to impose a statewide lockdown. With the deadly virus still on the rampage, the lockdown has been extended till May 23, but there’s a constitutional need for the next government to take charge by May 24, when the term of the present administration ends. The situation demands that the plans for a grand swearing-in ceremony be set aside and the ministry be administered the oath of office in a simple affair, stripped to bare formalities. At a time when the raging pandemic and the restrictions in place to contain it have greatly disrupted people’s lives, a lavish event that celebrates a political victory would seem out of place, to say the least. Besides, it’s also an opportunity for the new government to emphasise that it is ready to play by the rules it makes for the common man. So, instead of the planned function at Thiruvananthapuram’s Central Stadium, the Cabinet can be sworn in at the Raj Bhavan itself with only those required in attendance.
Or, the CM can set an example, and thereby create history again, by exploring the options for a virtual ceremony. At a time when education has gone online almost completely, digital meeting places have replaced workplaces, judges across the country are hearing cases and delivering verdicts virtually, and Cabinet meetings and global conferences are held over digital platforms, a virtual swearing-in is an option worth considering. Of course, the constitutional requirements should be taken care of and certain formalities may need to be dispensed with, to be fulfilled later. And there will be objections and hurdles that will have to be overcome.
The pandemic has changed the world we live in and the new realities need new rules and conventions—and breaking of the old ones. An online swearing-in ceremony, if it materialises, will be another Kerala model.