Vakkom Purushothaman; a speaker who wielded the sword of discipline
Determined to ensure legislative discipline in the House, he introduced a slew of measures that won him both bouquets and brickbats.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Vakkom made a mark in Kerala’s political history with his two tenures as a speaker during the 7th and 11th Assemblies. Determined to ensure legislative discipline in the House, he introduced a slew of measures that won him both bouquets and brickbats.
During this second tenure, he didn’t enjoy much rapport with the majority of journalists after he emulated stipulations by the Lok Sabha Secretariat in covering assembly proceedings. He insisted that when the House witnesses ruckus or tussle between the ruling and Opposition fronts, cameras should focus on the Speaker’s dais.
This didn’t go down well with the journalistic fraternity, resulting in protests reaching up to his official residence. It was in 2002 that The Kerala Loading and Unloading (Regulation of Wages and Restriction of Unlawful Practices) Act 2002 was introduced. It allowed police to intervene in labour disputes which did not go down well with the trade unions.
The legislation also gave the right to employers to hire workers of their own choice. Former labour minister and RSP general secretary Shibu Baby John recalled how Vakkom ensured the legislation gets clearance. “There was widespread criticism against the then labour minister Babu Divakaran. It was alleged that he was standing against trade unions.
Vakkom ensured the bill gets assembly clearance. Personally, Vakkom taught me how to speak on the floor of the Assembly concisely as a first-time legislator in 2001. I used to record my speech on the previous day to see the duration. The session would end every day at 1.30 PM. Sadly, now it’s free for all,” he said.
Kerala Media Academy chairman R S Babu will never forget his bitter legal battle with Vakkom.
“It was during the budget session in February 1983. The Assembly did not issue me a pass as I had reported certain remarks by the then Auditor General. This led to a legal fight,” Babu said. Interestingly in a recent interview with Sabha TV, Vakkom expressed regret over the incident.