CM takes over minority welfare portfolio, Church welcomes decision

Minister V Abdurahiman was widely tipped to handle the portfolio along with Wakf and Hajj pilgrimage. 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo | Albin Mathew, EPS)
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo | Albin Mathew, EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a deft move aimed at winning over the Christian community that has been crying foul over ‘imbalance’ in disbursal of minority welfare funds, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has taken over the minority welfare portfolio. Minister V Abdurahiman was widely tipped to handle the portfolio along with Wakf and Hajj pilgrimage.

But Pinarayi saw the swearing-in of a new cabinet and fresh allocation of portfolios as the right time to reach out to the Christian community that was peeved at losing out a major chunk of the minority welfare funds.During UDF government’s stint from 2011-16, Minority Welfare evolved as a full-fledged ministry and was helmed by Muslim League leader Manjalamkuzhy Ali. In the previous LDF government, the portfolio was handled by KT Jaleel.

The change of guard has been welcomed by the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), the apex body of bishops of various Catholic rites.“It was a long-pending demand of a major section among the minority communities that the chief minister should handle the minority welfare portfolio. We welcome the new decision and express our gratitude to the chief minister,” KCBC spokesperson Fr Jacob Palackapilly said.

However, Pinarayi clarified that he took over the portfolio due to the general opinion that it was better if the department was handled by the chief minister himself. Asked about the Muslim League’s opposition towards the move, Pinarayi said portfolio allocation was not that party’s prerogative. “As far as the Muslim community is concerned, they have trust in me and this government,” he said. 

Meanwhile, former minister KT Jaleel denied any sort of discrimination in fund allocation during his stint.

"The 80:20 ratio is followed only in state scholarships instituted on the basis of the Paloli committee recommendations to alleviate backwardness of the Muslim community. This is not applicable for any other schemes of the ministry or in the disbursal of Central funds meant for minority welfare," Jaleel told The New Indian Express.

BJP bid to woo Church prompts CM’s decision

The LDF had already begun attempts to assuage Church leaders in the run-up to the local body elections by appointing a commission led by Justice (Retd) JB Koshy to study the backwardness faced by Christians in the state. This, according to political observes, helped the LDF in many Christian pockets in the assembly elections.

Another factor that prompted Pinaryi’s move was the BJP’s attempts to champion the cause of Christians. Mizoram Governor and former BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai had facilitated a meeting between leaders of three prominent Church groups with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few months before the assembly elections. The Church heads reportedly apprised Modi that Christian students were getting only 20% of the minority scholarship amount.

“A mere change of guard does not mean the LDF’s policy towards minorities, especially Christians, has changed. The 80:20 ratio in distribution of welfare funds among Muslim and Christian communities should first be amended,” said BJP state general secretary George Kurian. Meanwhile, former minister Jaleel denied any sort of discrimination in fund allocation during his stint.

IUML SORE OVER TAKING MINORITY AFFAIRS BACK FROM ABDURAHIMAN

IUML leaders on Friday came out against the decision of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take back the portfolio of minority affairs from V Abdurahiman. Though the portfolio was earlier allotted to Abdurahiman who is from a minority community, the chief minister took it over reportedly to appease another minority community. IUML national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty said that, taking back the portfolio from Abdurahiman is tantamount to insulting the community.

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