UNI 

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.