Thrissur MP T. N. Prathapan has written to President Ram Nath Kovind, accusing the State government of having allowed bureaucrats to supplant elected MPs and MLAs, including Ministers, at Independence Day parades in the State.

Mr. Prathapan told The Hindu that in the letter, he had taken strong exception to the District Collector hoisting the National Flag at the Independence Day Parade in Thrissur. Education Minister C. Raveendranath, who was in the district, did not turn up for the event, Mr. Pratapan said, adding that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should answer for the faux pas.

The MP also cited a government order, which he said allowed District Collectors and Additional District Magistrates to officiate on behalf of Ministers at Independence Day parades held in district headquarters. Mr. Pratapan said the Left Democratic Front (LDF) had undermined democracy by promulgating the order. It had also not invited elected MPs and MLAs to the official celebrations. The government had attempted to relegate elected public officials to a secondary role. “It is anti-democratic,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic had drastically altered the conduct of Independence Day parades across the country, and Kerala seemed no exception. The police and military formations that participated in the parades had sported masks, gloves and ensured physical distance between personnel.

District collectors officiated on behalf of Ministers in other districts.

The parades across Kerala were closed to the public and relatively low key. The government had cancelled the rendering of patriotic songs by student choirs at the parade venue and other cultural events. Only officials and a few selected invitees attended the parades.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had skipped the parade in the capital after health experts doubted whether he had exposed himself to the virus while interacting with officials at the air crash site in Karipur in Kozhikode last week. Mr. Vijayan had gone into self-quarantine at his official residence on the eve of the Independence Day celebrations after some officials in Karipur turned COVID-19 positive. An antigen test conducted on Mr Vijayan later had turned COVID-19 negative.

At least seven ministers, who had accompanied Mr Vijayan to Karipur, had also gone into self-quarantine. Hence, the government ordered district collectors to officiate at the parade in their stead, a senior government official said.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran hoisted the national flag in Mr. Vijayan’s stead in the capital. He said the lockdown had reminded the people of the importance of freedom. Mr Surendran also lauded the efforts of doctors, health workers, police officers and volunteers at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic.

Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan hoisted the national flag at the Raj Bhavan.

Water Resources Minister K. Krishnankuty, Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty, Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan, Electricity Minister M. M. Mani, Food Minister P. Thilothaman, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, and Forest Minister K. Raju hoisted the national flag at Palakkad, Kasargode, Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam respectively.

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