A remark on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by an opposition MLA in the context of the NPR and a veiled reference to her counterpart in the state Pinarayi Vijayan triggered a gender debate in the Kerala Assembly on Thursday.
When IUML legislator K.M. Shaji, moved an adjournment motion seeking halting of census activities until concerns related to the National Population Register (NPR) were cleared, he made a reference to Banerjee.
"Look at West Bengal. A woman is ruling that state. ...She has shown enough spine and decided not to attend the meeting called by the Centre on NPR," Shaji said.
This led to a wave of protests from the treasury benches led by Health minister K K Shailaja and Agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar, who vociferously opposed to the reference to a woman heading the government there.
A visibly angry Shailaja, who is normally known to keep her cool, asked the IUML member "Even if a woman is heading the government there, what is the problem?
Are you saying that a woman cannot lead properly?" Shailaja asked.
The minister asked Congress MLA Shanimol Usman, how she could sit calmly next to Shaji after hearing such comments.
As the protests intensified, Shaji expressed regret and withdrew the statement.
"I withdraw my statement. But what I meant was that she was a strong woman," he said.
The MLA was referring to the decision of the West Bengal chief minister not to attend the meeting of the states called by the Union government to discuss the implementation of NPR.
Vijayan said even though the state had attended the meeting, its representative had informed the centre that it will not implement the NPR.
Kerala had decided not to implement the NPR days after the West Bengal government stayed all activities relating to the preparation and updation of the NPR in the eastern state.