Not offended by Sudhakaran's remarks, says Kerala CM

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(adds details, CM's quotes) Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 5 (PTI) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday said he was not offended by senior Congress leader K Sudhakaran's remarks against him and he was proud to be the son of a hardworkingman who was a toddy tapper.

Sudhakaran had said Vijayan, who hails from a family of toddy-tappers, will be remembered 'as the first CM from the working class to use a helicopter.' He made the comments on Tuesday at the venue of 'Aishwarya Yathra,' led by Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala at Thalassery in Kannur district.

Asked about the remarks made by the Kannur MP, Vijayan said he does not consider thecomments as abusive as he was the son of a toddy tapper.

'I have said earlier also that my father was a toddy tapper. My elder brother was also a toddy tapper.Second brother too knew the job but started a bakery.' 'Ours is an agrarian family.I am not offended by the comment. I do not take it as abuse.I am the son of a toddy tapper.I am proud that I am the son of a hardworking man,' Vijayan said.

He said Sudhakaran had blamed Alappuzha MLA Shanimol Usman for making the matter a controversy.

'Even Ramesh Chennithala had to change his stance in the matter.People of the state very well know my lifestyle,' Vijayan said.

In a sort of u-turn, several Congress leaders on Friday sought to play down the remark, saying it was not abusive.

The Congress' disciplinary committee earlier said it will look into the matter, but party's Rajya Sabha MP K C Venugopal claimed the statement was made in a colloquial manner.

The lone women Congress MLA Shanimol Usman, who had earlier lashed out at Sudhakaran for his remarks, tendered an unconditional apology to the MP, saying she should have spoken to him before reacting.

Chennithala, in response to questions posed by reporters yesterday, had said such comments should have been avoided.

However, on Friday, he told the media that his reaction yesterday was a 'general statement' and Sudhakaran was an asset to the Congress party.

'Sudhakaran said he didn't make any abusive statement against the CM.When I enquired, it was true.I made a general statement in the matter when reporters asked me.He is a popular leader and an asset for the Congress party,' Chennithala said.

Meanwhile, Sudhakaran, who met the media in Delhi, stood by the statement, saying he only mentioned the occupation of Vijayan's family to point out his 'lavish lifestyle' now.

'The discussion for the last two days was that I had made casteist remarks.The CPI(M) reacted to my Tuesday's speech on Thursday.They woke up from their sleep.Shanimol Usman intervened unnecessarily and now she understands and tendered an apology.Leader of opposition also changed his stand.' In a Facebook post, Usman said she should have asked Sudhakaran about the incident before reacting.

'Sudhakaran made the statement in a colloquial manner. Sudhakaran had clarified that he was not intending to make any casteist remarks,' Venugopal said.

However, state law minister A K Balan said Sudhakaran always had 'hatred towards Vijayan'.

'The congress leaders are afraid of Sudhakaran.The congress leaders should show the spine to stop Sudhakaran from making such casteist remarks,' Balan said.

The BJP leadership also said there was no need to consider the statement by Sudhakaran as a casteist remark.

'There is no need for such a controversy.The Left leaders have made even more derogatory statements earlier,' BJP state president K Surendran said at Kozhikode.

Sudhakaran had earlier expressed his interest in taking over as the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president after the party's recent local body poll debacle.

The Chief Minister had to face similar remarks when the Left government decided to implement the September 28,2018 Supreme Court verdict, allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple.

Earlier in 2019, BJP state vice-president M Sivarajan said it would have been better if Vijayan 'had gone back to toddy-tapping' instead of being the CM.

During the initial protests against the state's decision to implement the top court order, a local woman in her 50s allegedly used a derogatory term to denote Vijayan's caste, a video of which went viral.

She later shot a video apologising to the Chief Minister.

Prior to that, 'Janmabhoomi', a BJP mouthpiece, carried a cartoon, referring to his caste of traditional toddy tappers and implying he was unfit for the job.

However, Vijayan had brushed aside these remarks, saying the saffron party always reminded him of his caste and expected him to follow his family's footsteps, but that times had changed, a new era had come about and they would have to understand it.PTI RRT BN ADMINISTRATOR BN ADMINISTRATOR