Kerala Minister Saji Cheriyan on Wednesday announced his resignation a day after he courted controversy by criticising the Constitution, saying it “condones exploitation” and is written in a way that helps to “plunder” the people of the country.
At a press conference at the Chief Minister’s Office, the senior CPI(M) leader announced that he is stepping down, but also added that his remarks were “misconstrued”.
He insisted that it was never his intention to disrespect the Constitution for which he has the highest regard and respect. “I never intended to insult the Constitution. People misunderstood what was said in the speech. My speech was misconstrued,” he said.
Saying that his party always stood by the Constitution, Cheriyan said, “These are extraordinary times that my party is facing. We have always protected Constitutional values.”
Cheriyan, who held the Cultural Affairs and Fisheries portfolios in the cabinet, said that he has handed over his resignation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He said it was his independent decision to quit as a minister.
The issue came to light when News18 Kerala on Tuesday aired a speech the CPI(M) leader delivered recently during a political programme at Mallappally in the Pathanamthitta district. His remarks immediately kicked up a political storm with the opposition demanding his sacking.
“The Indian constitution is written in a way to plunder people. The constitution written by Indians was dictated by the British. It has been implemented for 75 years. I won’t agree, whatever others say, India has written an ‘attractive’ constitution that can be used to pillage. Yes, there are indeed some references like secularism and democracy added in a few places but this is a constitution designed for looting,” the minister said in Malayalam.
The minister was inaugurating a programme to felicitate the weekly political commentary programme by the area committee of CPI(M) at Mallappally in Pathanamthitta district on its 100th episode, on Sunday. He made the comments in the presence of two members of the state assembly, Mathew T Thomas of Janata Dal (S) and Pramod Narayan of Kerala Congress (M), both constituents of the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
“I did not make any statement against the Constitution,” Cheriyan said on Tuesday in a statement. “The news reports that I have made denigrating statements against the Constitution are distorted versions by the media. I was expressing the concern as a public servant that a large majority in the country are not getting the benefits of social justice. However, I express my regrets if my words through which I tried to state this feeling assertively, were distorted and spread in a wrong manner.”
BJP state president K Surendran termed Cherian’s statement a “violation of oath of office and treason”. “A case for treason must be charged against Saji Cheriyan after kicking him out of the cabinet,” he said. “It’s not a slip of the tongue. He insulted the judiciary too.”
(With PTI inputs)