How BJP’s refusal to make Dalit MP Kodikunnil Suresh the pro-tem Speaker has united CPI(M) and Congress in Kerala

The chief minister as well as the Congress leaders in their statements expressing solidarity with K Suresh highlighted the Dalit angle.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Jun 23, 2024 | 5:00 PM Updated Jun 23, 2024 | 5:16 PM

Kerala cm vijayan vd satheesan

A national-level development — the appointment of Lok Sabha pro-tem Speaker — has brought together the rival parties CPI(M) and Congress in Kerala, typically at loggerheads in the state where the political landscape is often volatile.

The controversy surrounding the appointment of the pro-tem Speaker in the 18th Lok Sabha united the two parties in their condemnation of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre for overlooking senior Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh.

Joining the Congress leaders in criticising the BJP-led NDA government on this ‘snubbing’ was none other than Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

This unprecedented camaraderie between the CPI(M) and Congress has sparked discussions across political circles.

Both parties have traditionally been fierce adversaries, but this issue has seen them set aside their differences to take a united stand against what they perceive as the Union government’s autocratic tendencies.

Related: ‘Why wasn’t most senior MP Kodikunnil Suresh not made pro-tem Speaker?’ 

What they said

On 21 June, the chief minister voiced his strong disapproval, stating, “The decision to bypass Kodikunnil Suresh is not just a slight to an experienced parliamentarian but also an insult to the democratic ethos of our country. This move by the BJP is a clear indication of their disregard for parliamentary traditions and seniority.”

Supporting this sentiment, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly VD Satheesan of the Congress remarked, “Kodikunnil Suresh has been a dedicated and seasoned parliamentarian with a wealth of experience. Ignoring his seniority for the Pro Tem Speaker role is a blatant act of political vendetta by the BJP. This decision undermines the democratic process and sets a dangerous precedent.”

According to KPCC president and designated Kannur MP K Sudhakaran, this wasn’t just about one MP being overlooked but about the BJP’s broader strategy to weaken democratic institutions and diminish the role of seasoned legislators.

Related: By convention, K Suresh should have been LS pro-tem Speaker: Congress

Dalit angle

The chief minister as well as the Congress leaders in their statements expressing solidarity with Suresh highlighted the Dalit angle.

While the chief minister said that the overlooking was an example of BJP’s upper caste politics, Congress leaders Satheesan and Sudhakaran questioned the Centre on why a Dalit leader, who is also a seniormost MP got overlooked.

Critics argue that the decision reflects the BJP’s reluctance to allow a Dalit leader to hold a position of authority, even temporarily.

According to a Congress leader, who is also an MP designate, this denial is part of a broader strategy by the BJP to marginalise Dalit representation in high-profile roles.

“The BJP’s actions suggest a calculated move to maintain control and influence by ensuring that key positions are not held by members of marginalized communities,” said the MP.

Related: LS pro-tem Speaker issue: Congress should make Kodikunnil Suresh LoP, says BJP

Joining hands

At the same time, commenting on the camaraderie, a senior CPI(M) leader told South First that there was nothing wrong in finding a common ground on issues.

“This support transcends party lines and underscores the importance of standing up against the central government’s high-handedness. There is nothing wrong in standing together to protect the integrity of our parliamentary system,” said the leader.

He also pointed out the recent instance in which Satheesan condemned the Union government’s decision not to allow state Health Minister Veena George to visit Kuwait to coordinate the rescue efforts and repatriate the mortal remains of victims of the Mangaf fire tragedy.

“My take is that the unified response from the CPI(M) and Congress indicates a recognition of the need to collectively address these systemic issues,” the leader said.

However, the leader also added that this episode should not be considered a turning point in the relationship between the CPI(M) and Congress.

“I heard some comments that by such baby steps, CPI(M) and Congress will move towards more coordinated efforts in the future. Let’s see. A case-to-case approach will happen here,” added the leader.

He also pointed out instances where the CPI(M) and the Congress shed their differences and joined hands for a common cause.

“Take the case of the resolutions passed unanimously by the Assembly on matters like Uniform Civil Code, recalling Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel, and excluding human settlements from the purview of the eco-sensitive zone of protected forest tracts and others. In these cases, both parties joined hands for a common cause,” said the leader.

At the same time, a KPCC member told South First that this newfound unity between the CPI(M) and Congress, despite the competition suggests that there are moments when ideological and political differences can be set aside for a greater cause.

“In a democratic setup, there is nothing wrong with joining hands despite differences for a common cause. This collaboration could serve as a blueprint for future alliances on key issues, especially those related to social justice and the protection of marginalised communities,” said the member.

Though South First tried to reach out to BJP state president K Surendran for his comments on Suresh being denied the post and the newfound unity between rival parties, he didn’t respond.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)

(South First is now on WhatsApp and Telegram)