Malappuram: In an unprecedented move, overriding an earlier decision in its regard, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has made a paradigm shift in the customary practice of handling the portfolio of Minority Affairs by the Minister belonging to the Muslim community and belonging to the Malappuram district. Taking a historic diversion from the routine mode, the Chief Minister has retained the portfolio of the Minorities Welfare Department. It was a Muslim Minister with both the UDF and LDF who dealt the portfolio in the past since its constitution. Came into being in 2008, the Minority Welfare Department is the nodal agency for implementing both central and state schemes and projects aimed at the welfare of the minorities in Kerala. The various agencies which come under the department included Kerala State Minority Commission, Kerala State Minority Development Finance Corporation, Madrassa Teachers Welfare Fund and Coaching Centre for Minority Youth. The department implements various projects and development programmes for the welfare of minority communities like Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis in the State.
The portfolio has been handled by Ministers belonging to the Muslim community but never a Christian. It was Paloli Muhammed kutty in Achuthanandan Ministry, Manjalamkuzhi Ali in Oommen Chandy Government and lastly K T Jaleel in the first Pinarayi Government. All the three Ministers also belonged to the Muslim-dominated district of Malappuram.
But what forced the Chief Minister to decide differently from what was proposed and reported in the media earlier is obviously a shrewd political move. The portfolio was reported to have been given to V Abdurahiman, who also handles Pravasi Affairs and Sports. Even the Marxist mouthpiece among other newspapers had reported this. But the decision by the Chief Minister was a quick turn around. Presumably, it should be to appease the Christian community who had since been putting pressure for retaining the portfolio with the Chief Minister.
According to the 2011 census, the Christians in Kerala account for only 18 percent. The count of Muslims is 27 percent and the Hindus 55 percent. However, Christian organisations were complaining of flowing of major chunk of funds into the Muslim community. There have been complaints from Christian leadership on discrimination in distribution of minority welfare scholarships. They even alleged nepotism and misuse of power by Ministers who handled the portfolio. Some Christian organizations have demanded that the portfolio be handled by the Chief Minister.
However, the decision of the Chief Minister has evoked criticism from the Muslim orgnaisations and the Muslim League. They questioned the decision by the Chief Minister to retain the portfolio. However, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), a powerful Christian organization in Kerala, hailed the decision. Pinarayi Vijayan had on Friday ridiculed the League saying it was not the League to decide things in the LDF Government. Pinarayi also clarified that the Minorities is not just the Muslim community but includes Christians also. He said the decision to handle the portfolio by the Chief Minister has been welcomed by all sections. The CPI(M) has also come out with its support to the decision of the Chief Minister. The Government wants to gain the support of the predominantly pro-UDF Christian organizations. They also aim at resisting the closer tie between the Christian community and the BJP. It appears that the Chief Minister and the Marxist party are aiming to kill two birds with one stone.