THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Culture Minister Saji Cherian has become the first casualty in the second Pinarayi Vijayan government. With clamour from various corners for his resignation over his controversial remarks on the Constitution, the senior CPM leader resigned from the CPM-led Left government on Wednesday.
One year into its second term, the second Pinarayi cabinet has lost its first wicket. The party leadership and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed the minister to quit following the directive from the central leadership. Though the available party secretariat which met at AKG Centre in the morning decided to buy more time for his resignation, the minister had to bow down to pressure after central leadership made its stance clear.
Speaking at a party meeting at Mallappally in Pathanamthitta on Sunday, the minister had kicked off a controversy by saying that the Constitution endorses exploitation and loot of the common people. With the remark inviting widespread criticism, opposition UDF and BJP had demanded the minister's resignation. Mounting pressure on the government, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan had stated on Tuesday that he was waiting for the chief minister's action in this regard.
On Wednesday evening Saji Cherian met the chief minister at his office and held a meeting for half-an-hour. Speaking to the media after handing over his resignation, Saji Cherian said he informed the chief minister about his decision to step down. Cherian said he decided to step down as it won't be ethically right for him to continue as minister.
In the morning, the party secretariat meeting attended by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Politburo member A Vijayaraghavn and minister Saji Cherian among others, decided to go with a wait-and-watch policy. At the meeting Cherina explained that it was a slip of tongue on his part. Speaking to the media while coming out of the secretariat meeting, Cherian had asked ." Why should I resign?".
On Wednesday the government sought legal advice from the Advocate General on whether a case could be registered against the minister, based on a slew of complaints that came up before the police. Meanwhile the state assembly adjourned within eight minutes on Wednesday, following Opposition furore.
The remarks by the minister had put the Left front on the back foot. The CPM central leadership too was unhappy about the minister's unwarranted remarks against the Constitution. The CPI leadership too is of the opinion that the minister had unnecessarily put the Left government on the defensive, at a time when the LDF has already been on the backfoot over slew of allegations in the gold smuggling case.
"If Cherian was just a party leader, the CPM would have been able to somehow politically defend the remarks. However it would be difficult to justify such a remark from an individual occupying a constitutional position," said sources.