The Left-ruled Kerala government on Friday, 7 February, triggered a row by depicting Mahatma Gandhi's assassination on the cover of the budget document presented by Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac who attacked the BJP over the Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC.
The cover page, designed by renowned artist Tom Vattakuzhi, shows Gandhi lying among his followers after being shot by his assassin Nathuram Godse.
Isaac said the cover was a "message" to the Centre.
“The message is, yes, we remember that Mahatma was murdered. Murdered by Hindu communalists who are today revered by the ruling party and the central government.We just want to say that we will remember it, people will not forget it.”T M Thomas Isaac, Kerala Finance Minister
The finance minister, in his over two-hour-long budget speech was vocal in criticising the centre and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“These are very different times that we live in. For the centre, NRC is the greatest and the most urgent reform that needs to be implemented.It is a divisive attempt to mobilize population on communal lines. This has to be countered at every level.”T M Thomas Isaac, Kerala Finance Minister
Isaac, who quoted various poets and writers including Rabindranath Tagore, said the amended Act was posing threat to the basic credentials of the Constitution and the country was witnessing the biggest protests ever in post-Independence era.
“Students and women are at the forefront of the anti-CAA agitations and the hope of the country lies in the youth who hit the streets vowing that they would not let the country down.”T M Thomas Isaac, Kerala Finance Minister
Unanimous Resolution Passed by the State Assembly Against CAA.
Coming down heavily on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, Isaac said a "communalised" government machinery, leaders who talk only about "disgust and hatred" and their party workers who consider violence as their duty was the current reality in the country.
Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) felt the picture could have been avoided.
“Even though we are all fighting against the RSS-BJP and communal forces, (this) budget cover should have been avoided. I don’t think this is an appropriate gesture for budget. Budget is different.”Ramesh Chennithala, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly
Last week, BJP MP Anant Kumar Hegde had stoked a controversy terming the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi as an "adjustment" with the British, remarks that drew flak and prompted the saffron party to ask him to tender a public apology.
Hegde later told his party leadership that he made no mention of Mahatma Gandhi in his speech and the controverial remarks attributed to him were "incorrect." Last year, when the state witnessed widespread violence after the Left government decided to implement the 28 September 2018 verdict of the Supreme Court allowing women of all ages into the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, the state government had organised various programmes to highlight the state's renaissance history.
The cover page of the 2019-20 state budget had depicted a picture of Ayyankali, a social reformer and Panchami, who was the first Dalit child to go to school in erstwhile Travancore.
In 1914, Ayyankali had taken the lead in admitting Panchami to a school, resulting in a massive agitation by upper caste Hindus.