It was the Left government under E M S Namboodirippad that carved out Malappuram district in 1969 and now the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government has rejected the demand to bifurcate the Muslim-majority district, calling it unscientific. But Muslim League MLA K N A Khader, who raised the issue as a calling attention motion in the Assembly on Tuesday, said: “You will have to do it either today or tomorrow.”
Industries Minister E P Jayarajan, who stood in for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was unimpressed. “Now decentralisation is being effectively implemented in the state. A bifurcation does not look scientific at this point. Our attempt is to strengthen the existing administrative machinery,” Jayarajan said. He was speaking for the Chief Minister who had to leave the House to hold discussions with the State-Level Bankers' Committee.
Khader, too, based his arguments on decentralisation and administrative efficiency. “I hear that the government is now trying to create more panchayats for the sake of efficiency. Creating more districts is just like creating more panchayats and taluks,” he said. “It will only strengthen decentralisation efforts,” he said.
Khader said Malappuram was already highly populated. “It has 12 lakh more people than Thiruvananthapuram, the second most populated district in the state. It has 37 lakh more people than Wayanad, the least populated district in the state,” he said. According to Khader, this meant the need for more collectorates, taluks, schools, hospitals and bus stands. “There are people in Malappuram who have to travel 70 to 100 kilometres to reach the district collectorate,” he said.
Khader also suggested that creation of new districts in the state was long overdue. “We are the only state in the country with more Lok Sabha seats than districts. Even North East states have more districts than Lok Sabha seats,” he said.
Khader said he actually wanted three new districts carved out. Besides Malappuram, he wanted Vadakara and Muvattupuzha to be made districts. “I cannot speak about the other two as I am an MLA from Malappuram,” the Vengara MLA said. Khader said that a special officer should be appointed to work out the modalities of carving out a new district.
Malappuram was carved out of Kozhikode and Palakkad districts. Then, the vastness of Kozhikode was said to be one of the reasons to go for the creation of a new district. Development of minorities was the other stated reason.
As it stands, Malappuram has two sub-divisions, seven tahsils and 138 villages. The district is an IUML stronghold; 12 of the 16 assembly seats in the district are now with the UDF.
Jayarajan also asked Khader why he had not put forward such a proposal during the UDF tenure. “You were in power earlier and you could have raised the issue then. That you could come up with such a proposal only now looks suspicious,” Jayarajan said.
Though the ruling benches taunted the Congress to give its opinion on the subject, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala sought to remain silent. Only the Muslim League members looked interested.
Veteran Congress leader Aryadan Muhammad, and a known Muslim League baiter, had come out strongly against the bifurcation. He had said that there was no need for the Congress to stoop so low as to back a long-standing demand of the SDPI.