CPI-M candidate P. Sreeramakrishnan on Friday was elected the speaker of the 14th Kerala assembly, an entirely expected outcome except that he got not only a BJP vote but also a vote of the main opposition UDF.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala acknowledged the “leak” of one vote.
“We don’t think that this was a deliberate attempt, but nevertheless we will look into it,” said Chennithala.
Sreeramakrishnan got 92 votes as against 46 received by the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate V.P. Sajeendran.
In 140-member house, 139 votes were cast, but one vote was declared invalid — independent member P.C. George was clearly seen by all to be putting a blank ballot into the box.
Pro-tem speaker S. Sarma, who belongs to Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI-M, did not vote.
The lone MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), O. Rajagopal, said he voted for Sreeramakrishnan.
So Sreeramakrishnan would have got 90 LDF votes, one BJP vote, and one more.
This one more vote is clearly accounted for if one considers that V.P. Sajeendran got only 46 votes even though UDF’s strength in the assembly is 47.
That is despite the Congress-led UDF issuing a whip to all its 47 legislators to vote for Sajeendran.
Far from being embarrassed, Chennithala was busy suggesting a clandestine “agreement” between the CPI-M and the BJP in Kerala.
“This is the best example of a tie-up between these two parties. We had made it clear we did not need the help of Rajagopal and also (independent) P.C. George,” Chennithala told reporters.
Rajgopal, 86, fired his own salvo, saying he wanted to respect Chennithala’s wish that the UDF did not want one BJP vote.
“I did not want to displease him. I decided to vote for Sreeramakrishnan because I liked his style and he is a long time friend of mine,” said Rajagopal.
The BJP veteran said his stand in the assembly will be issue based and “there will be no blind opposition, nor will there be any blind support.”
Independent member George said: “I did not vote for anyone as I don’t belong to either of the fronts. The BJP voting for the CPI-M clearly shows that there has been a tie-up between the two parties.”
Sreeramakrishnan, 48, has become the Kerala assembly speaker having worked his way up through student politics.
He became in 2007 the president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).
He later joined the Communist Part of India-Marxist (CPI-M) won his first assembly election in 2011 from Ponanni constituency in Malappuram district. He retained the seat in 2016 polls.
Known for his pleasing manners, Sreeramakrishnan is also a well studied legislator besides a good orator.
As per the convention, the new speaker was escorted to the dais by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala.
Vijayan said: “Your pleasing manners and overall conduct will certainly be a boon to the house and this election should also be noted that you are chosen at an early age.”
Chennithala said: “You have become the 22nd speaker of this august house and your office is for both the treasury and opposition benches and is independent of the government and it’s a high office which you have got.
Thanking all the members of the house, the new speaker said he will act in an impartial manner.
“The rights of the opposition will be ensured and at the same time the business of the government will have to go forward without any hitch,” said Sreeramakrishnan.