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Kerala legislative assembly and the constitutional developments

The Kerala Legislative Assembly is the Supreme law making body of the state. In 1956 when the Kerala State was formed, it was under the presidential administration and there was no legislative assembly in the newly formed state. Following the general election of 1957 the First Legislative assembly came into existence on 6th March 1957. The legislative assembly of Kerala is constituted with 141 members of whom 140 members are elected by the people on the basis of adult franchise as per the people’s Representation Act of India and the remaining one is nominated by the Governor as obliged by the constitution of India from among the Anglo-Indian community. The electorate is divided into 140 assembly constituencies according to the number of votes and the election is ordinarily held once in five years or on the termination of an ongoing Assembly. A parliamentary democratic system is followed for the election and the function of the assembly and the party who gets the majority will form the government. An elected speaker or a deputy speaker in his absence will preside over the meetings and control the law proceedings of the assembly.

The assembly is divided into two sections viz. the ruling party (Treasury bench) and the opposition party (opposition bench) .The leader of the majority party will be the Chief Minister. The council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister is called the ministry or cabinet. The executive authority of the government is vested with them and they are responsible to the Assembly. Various sub committees of the Assembly will look into the legislative obligations and proprieties.

The meeting of the Assembly will be convened thrice in a year. The highest number of sittings are earmarked for the discussion of the budget and for the grant of budgetary demands during the months of February and March. Other sittings are intended for legislative works and other business items. The working time of the Assembly is from 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. On Fridays the business will break at 12.30 p.m. The Assembly which sit rarely in the afternoons will never meet on Saturdays and Sundays and in all public holidays. During the working hours the first one hour is set apart for questions and answers and the Assembly will appear more lively on this occasion.

An important responsibility vested with the Assembly. Most of the laws that are enacted by the Assembly are persuaded from governmental side through the sub committees under the Assembly. There are eleven committees for the Kerala Assembly in addition to the subject committees originated in 1980.

The adoption of the Annual Budget and Finance bill is one of the primary responsibilities of the Assembly. It is the constitutional duty of the assembly to open a debate on the budget as soon as it is presented in the Assembly by the Finance Minister. It may accord its approval to the statement of income and expenditure for the concerned financial year and to the accompanying financial bill. The Assembly is also empowered to sanction supplementary grants whenever necessary. The Assembly is empowered to discuss any matter of importance to the State and adopt resolutions. It can vote for the election of the President of India and elect the Rajya Sabha members.

The First Kerala Legislative Assembly :

On 16th March 1957 the first Kerala legislative assembly with 128 members was sworn in and a Communist ministry under the leadership of E.M.S. Nampoothiripad came into power. It was the first communist ministry in the world which came to power through ballot. Objections to the policies and programmes of the new government was flaring up among a large section of the population. At last all the opposition parties joined together and conducted a ‘Vimochana Samaram’ (Liberation struggle) to throw out the government. On 31st July 1959 the E.M.S. ministry was dismissed. The state again returned to the presidential rule.The first Kerala legislative assembly in its period of Twenty- eight months sat for 175 days. R. Sanakaranarayanan Thampi was the Speaker. The joint assembly enacted 97 bills. The education bill and the agrarian relations bill produced many uproars. The verbal combats among prominent leaders like E.M.S. Nampoothiripad, C. Achuthamenon, T.V. Thomas, K.R. Gowri, V.R. Krishna Iyer and the like on one side and the stalwarts like Pattom Thanupillai and P.T. Chacko etc. on the other side enlivened the assembly. Besides, the fact that the ruling party had only a majority of the two members compelled both treasury bench and the opposition parties to attend the assembly proceeding promptly.

The Second Kerala Legislative Assembly :

After the dismissal of the Assembly, an interim election was conducted in February 1960. On 9th February the second Kerala Assembly was formed. A coalition ministry under Congress and Praja Socialist party with Pattom Thanupillai as the leader came in to power. Seethi Sahib of Muslim League was elected as the Speaker. Following his sudden demise C.H. Mohammed Koya became the Speaker. After a period of six months he also vacated the post. Alexander Parambithara of Congress adorned the seat of the Speaker. The ministry was in power for 31 months. With the appointment of Pattom Thanupillai as the governor of Punjab, the ministry resigned. Then the Congress formed a ministry under the leadership of R. Shankar who was the Deputy Chief Minister under Pattom Thanupillai. The Shankar ministry took up the reins of government on 26th September 1962. But this ministry could not complete the term. On 9th September 1964 the second Kerala Assembly was dissolved and the state was again put under the presidential administration. The Second Assembly of Kerala sat for 296 days and created 162 acts. The land reforms bill, Panchayat bill and municipalities bill are important among them. After six month’s President rule, elections were held on 4th March 1965 in which no single party got majority. The presidential administration had to be continued in such circumstances. This was a rare occasion in the political history of Kerala.

The Third Kerala Legislative Assembly :

The united front under the leadership of Indian Communist Party (Marxist) could get a landslide majority in the elections of 1967. The front had 116 members in an Assembly which had a total strength of 133 members. CPI (M), CPI, RSP, IUML, KSP and Karshaka Thozhilali party were parties in the front. On 6th March 1967 a ministry under E.M.S. Namboothiripad came in to power. D. Damodaran Potti of Indian Socialist Party was elected as the speaker. On 24th October 1969 E.M.S. submitted his resignation. A new government was sworn in with C. Achutha Menon as the Chief Minister. In the eight- member ministry parties such as CPI, Muslim League, Indian Socialist Party and Kerala Congress participated. The Congress and RSP supported it from outside. But when it was seen that certain undesirable tendencies were adversely affecting the smooth running of the government, the Chief Minister advised the governor to dissolve the assembly. On 25th June 1970 the Governor dissolved the third assembly.The third assembly met for 211 days and including the amendments created 101 laws. They included the official language act and Calicut and Kerala Universities acts.

The Fourth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

On 4th October 1970 the fourth legislative assembly of Kerala came into existence. Achutha Menon who was sworn in as Chief Minister in 1970 served in that position till the 25th of March 1977. K. Moideenkutty Haji, a member from the Muslim League was elected as the speaker. He vacated the post on 8th May 1975 due to differences of opinion with the ruling coalition. The deputy speaker discharged the duties of the speaker till February 16th 1976. Later S. John of Kerala Congress was elected as the speaker. This was not only the first ministry of Kerala which was able to complete its term of office but also the one that got extension for three times. It had to continue in office for about six and half years. This was a unique event in the political history of Kerala. The cabinet was expanded in 1971 and in 1975. The fourth assembly of Kerala met for 322 days and passed 224 bills. The land reforms bill, the landed labour abolition bill, the agricultural workers bill and the Guruvayoor devaswom bill were some of them.

The Fifth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

Chakkiri Ahmmed Kutty of Muslim League was the speaker of the fifth Kerala legislative assembly which was formed on 22nd March 1977. He continued till the end of the term of Assembly. If stability of the Government was the fair display during the tenure of the fourth assembly the fifth assembly was functioning in an atmosphere of uncertainty. K. Karunakaran who accepted the Chief Ministership on 25th March 1977 had to resign from the post following a court verdict in connection with the ‘Rajan Case’. On 27th April A.K. Antony formed a coalition ministry under the stewardship of Congress. But this ministry had only a short life. Due to certain political reasons Antony resigned in October 1978. P.K. Vasudevan Nair, leader of CPI formed another coalition ministry. On 7th October 1979 the third ministry also gave up the administration. Eventhough the Muslim League leader C.H. Muhammed Koya provided leadership to form another ministry and took up authority on 12th October, it lasted only a few weeks. On November 13th the Governor dissolved the assembly in order to seek a new verdict from the people.The 5th Kerala legislative assembly with thirty ministers under four chief ministers ruled the state for thirty two months, met for 143 days and enacted 87 laws.

The Sixth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

In the interim election held on 21st January 1980, the political front of seven parties (Left Democratic Front) under the leadership of CPI (M) got 93 assembly seats. On 25th January 1980 a 17 member ministery took up the reins of power under the leadership of E.K. Nayanar. Besides CPM, the representatives of CPI, INC (U), RSP, Kerala Congress (M), All India Muslim League and KC (P) were also included in the ministry. The assembly elected A.P. Kurian as its speaker. After twenty- two months of governance, Nayanar relinquished authority on the withdrawal of support by the Kerala Congress (M) and the Indian National Congress (U). A new ministry under the leadership of K. Karunakaran came into power on 28th December 1981. On March 1st A.P. Kurien relinquished the post of speaker and A.C. Jose was elected as the new Speaker. There were seventy members each on the Treasury Bench and on the opposition front and due to this contingency the ministry depended on the casting vote of the speaker for survival.The Karunakaran ministry, after a short period of two and half months, ended its administration on the withdrawal of support of one person from the ruling front. On 17th March 1982, the sixth Assembly was wound up and the presidential rule was imposed in the state for the seventh time. The sixth assembly convened its meetings for only 112 days. Most of the laws exacted were other amendments or budgetary demands. A remarkable development witnessed during the time of the sixth legislative assembly was the appearance of a new type of legislative sub committee called subject committee in the world of parliamentary practice.

The Seventh Kerala State Legislative Assembly :

The presidential rule lasted for only 2 months. On 19th May 1982, an election was held and in this election the political front under the leadership of Congress (United Democatic Front) obtained majority. A ministry under K. Karunakaran was sworn in on 24th May. The seventh Kerala legislative Assembly was an assembly with more than twenty parties which were either small or even small among small parties that arrayed in the ruling front to opposition front in accordance with their affiliations. On 24th June 1982 Vakkom Purushothaman was elected as the speaker. On being elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 he resigned the post and following this, V.M. Sudheeran became the Speaker on 6th March 1985. In 1982 Kerala Assembly celebrated the silver jubilee. Gyani Zail Singh, the then President of India who delivered the inaugural speech during that occasion recollected many memorable events of the chequered history of the assembly. During the period of the 7th assembly two more revenue districts namely Pathanamthitta and Kasargod, came into existence on 24th May 1984. An important political event that had taken place during the time was the unification of Congress (I) and Congress (A) on 20th November 1982. The 7th Assembly also saw many turbulant events of which the Model Speech of Minister R. Balakrishna Pillai and his subsequent resignation, resignation of Minister M.P. Gangadharan as a consequence of Nawab Rajendran's case charging minority marriage of his daughter and the resignation of minister R. Sreenivasan on corruption charges were notorious.

The Eighth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

In the election conducted in March 1987 the Left Democratic Front came to power. E.K. Nayanar became Chief Minister. Varkala Radhakrishnan was elected as the Speaker of the Assembly. The Left Democratic Front got 79 seats in the assembly while the United Democratic Front bagged 61 seats. The council of ministers excluding the Chief Ministry were M/s. K. Chandrasekharan, Baby John, E. Chandra Sekharan Nair, K.R. Gowri Amma, T.K. Hamza, N.M. Joseph, Lonappan Nambadan, A. Neela Lohitha Dasan Nadar, K. Pankajakshan, P.K. Raghavan, V.V. Raghavan, T.K. Ramakrishnan, T. Sivadasa Menon, P.S. Sreenivasan, V.K. Thankappan, V. Vishwanatha Menon, A.C. Shanmugha Das and K. Sanakara Narayana Pillai. Even though the Former Speaker V.M. Sudheeran introduced a no-confidence motion against the government, it failed. An important event took place as soon as the LDF took over authority.The panchayat and Municipal elections were held on 23rd January, 1988. The centenary of the Assembly commenced with the beginning of Srimoolam Assembly (1888) on 30th March 1988. A remarkable reform was the changing of 8 Districts and 17 Taluks into Malayalam names in February 1990. In November 1989 the Kerala Congress (J) deserted the UDF and entered the fold of LDF following which the membership of R. Balakrishnapillai was invalidated because of his refusal to go with his party. The government brought Higher Secondary Education to schools in 1990 contrary to the declared policy of the ruling front. The declaration of coconut as an oil seed and Trivandrum airport as an International Air Port by Central government was the achievement of the eighth assembly.Another remarkable administrative reform of this period was the formation of District Councils for the decentralisation of power and the first election was held on 29th January 1991. It was also during this time that Kerala was declared as a total literary state in April 1991.

The Ninth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

In 1991 the eighth assembly had one or more year before its expiry.The left democratic front which was ruling then took a decision to dissolve the assembly and conduct fresh elections anticipating favourable results. On 12th June 1991 the assembly elections were also held along with the Loksabha elections. But contrary to the expectations, the United Democratic Front under the leadership of K. Karunakaran came back to power. On 24th June 1991 the representatives of five constituent parties were sworn in as ministers. Karunakaran was the Chief Minister. Because of the internal squabbles the swearing of other members of the proposed cabinet was postponed. Later thirteen more members took the solemn oath in two stages and the 19 member ministry came to power. This ministry implemented an industrial policy conducive to the growth of all types of industry and beneficial to the entrepreneurs. It also made the education up to the level of Pre-degree/Higher Secondary free vis-à-vis taking steps to implement U.G.C. norms for university education. On the formation of the ministry the quarrels that were going on inside the front were exposed, and these became a threat to the very existence of the government. In the meantime the Chief Minister met with a car accident and went to America for expert medical treatment. C.V. Padmarajan was temporarily given the charge of the Chief Minister and the ministry, which paddled along, with group quarrels and revisionist divisions had to face even a proposal for change in the leadership. Moreover the flood havocs of 92 coupled with certain political extremist activities did not allow the government to sail smoothly. In spite of all these threats, the government was able to take a few bold decisions like the one to start the Sri Sankara Sanskrit University at Kalady and the decision to construct the Cochin International Air Port as Nedumbassery were noteworthy. But the Lathur earth quake and the devastating monsoon of 1992 had shocked this state. In 1995 A.K. Antony resigned from the central cabinet and became the Chief Minister replacing K. Karunakaran who was subsequently elected to the Rajyasabha on his resignation of the membership of the assembly.

The Tenth Kerala Legislative Assembly :

In 1996 a change of government took place in Kerala. After the general elections, a ministry under the leadership of E.K. Nayanar came to power. The rift in Congress and the allegations of corruption against Karunakaran government were the main reasons for the U.D.F. set back. Because of the anti- arrack campaigning and prohibition laws, the Antony leadership could gain huge popularity among voters. But this trend did not help the UDF to perform hopefully well in the elections. The Kannur University was started during the time of Tenth Assembly even though much spadework had been done during the time of the previous assembly. In 1997 K.R. Narayanan was elected as the President of India and this Assembly did much campaigning for his success.the people's planning was the most important programme introduced by the tenth Kerala assembly. It is a kind of democratic planning and implementation of developmental programmes at the grass root level to suit people's desire. It has since created a new developmental culture in the state.




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