P Rajeev: From ‘best parliamentarian’ to minister in Pinarayi cabinet

Indian Express, May 18, 2021

On May 2, when it became clear that the CPM’s P Rajeev would emerge the winner in Kalamassery constituency in Ernakulam district, a pocketborough of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), his elevation to the Kerala cabinet was a foregone conclusion. On Tuesday, the state secretariat of the CPM confirmed his name as one of its 12 members in the Pinarayi Vijayan 2.0 cabinet.

At 54, this is Rajeev’s debut election to the state Assembly and will be his first time as a minister.

Rajeev had shone both at the state and national level during his stint in the Rajya Sabha between 2009 and 2015. He served as the CPM’s chief whip and deputy leader in the Upper House. He was a member of various parliamentary committees, including advisory, information, petitions and insurance bill select committee. He presented a resolution in the Rajya Sabha demanding the annulment of the amendments to the 66A of the Information Technology Act

He was a vocal face of the Opposition benches in the House and took on both the Congress-led Manmohan Singh and BJP-led Narendra Modi governments through factual, pointed speeches. In 2016, he was awarded the ‘Sansad Ratna’ award for best parliamentarian. Bidding farewell to him in 2015, late BJP leader and former finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that Rajeev helped keep the “government on its toes” and made their job easier. Jaitley even asked CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to consider sending him again to the Rajya Sabha.

Rajeev has served in many capacities within the CPM, including its Ernakulam district secretary, CITU joint secretary in the district, former state secretary of the student outfit SFI and resident editor of party mouthpiece Deshabhimani. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rajeev had contested unsuccessfully against Hibi Eden of the Congress from the Ernakulam constituency. He was defeated by 1.69 lakh votes. In the 2021 Assembly elections, he wrested the Kalamassery seat from IUML’s VE Gafoor by over 15,000 votes. Gafoor is the son of VK Ibrahimkunju, a two-time MLA from Kalamassery who is facing charges of corruption in the Palarivattom flyover case.

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