Kerala Minister Saji Cheriyan on Wednesday announced his resignation amid an outcry led by the opposition over his recent controversial remarks against the constitution.
Giving in to the mounting pressure, Mr Cheriyan - a senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader who holds Cultural Affairs, Fisheries and Youth Affairs portfolios in the cabinet - met journalists at the Chief Minister's Office and announced that he has handed over his resignation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
He is the first minister to resign from the second Left Democratic Front (LDF) government headed by Mr Vijayan.
Amid the opposition's calls for his sacking, Mr Cheriyan said it was his independent decision to quit as minister.
He insisted that it was never his intention to disrespect the constitution for which he had "the highest regard and respect".
Mr Cheriyan said his recent speech was misconstrued which sent a wrong message that he disrespected the constitution.
"I was hurt by such a portrayal of what I had said. I also believe it was aimed at destabilising the ruling Left government," he said.
He also alleged that it was the Congress and the BJP which have failed many times to uphold the majesty of the constitution.
The controversy had flared after the minister, at a recent event, had said that the constitution of the country "condones exploitation" and is written in a way helping to "plunder" the people of the country.
Reacting to his resignation, senior Congress MLA and former state minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said, "It was his speech that led to his resignation. However, while addressing the media announcing his resignation, he did not express regret for his words. Cheriyan needs to make it clear whether he stands by his speech against the Constitution."
Kerala Congress chief K Sudhakaran too said that he heard no regret in Mr Cheriyan's voice.
"However, it is good that he exited without much protest. Our constitution is special as this is the only one which calls for a unity in diversity. If this constitution is weakened, then our country will be lost," he said.
Earlier in the day, after attending a meeting of the available state secretariat at AKG Centre, Mr Cheriyan had appeared opposed to the idea of stepping down. "Why? What is the problem? I already said what I had to say yesterday," he said in response to repeated queries by reporters outside the party headquarters on whether he would resign or if his resignation had been sought.
At the same time, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters in New Delhi that the matter was being discussed by the state leadership and "appropriate action" would be taken.
In the morning, the state assembly proceedings were disrupted by the opposition's protests demanding Mr Cheriyan's resignation leading to the house being adjourned for the day.
After staging a brief sit-in protest at the portal of the hall with placards, the UDF members later gathered in front of the statue of BR Ambedkar at the assembly campus and raised slogans accusing Mr Cheriyan of 'insulting' the architect of the constitution.
A two-time MLA and first time minister, Mr Cheriyan had been representing Chengannur constituency in the state Assembly since 2018.
The 57-year-old leader was considered as a strongman of the ruling party in Alappuzha district and a confidante of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Beginning his political career as a student leader of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India DYFI, Mr Cheriyan also held various party posts during his decade-long political life.
Though he had contested for the first time in the 2006 state elections, he lost to Congress's PC Vishnunath.
He was elected as an MLA in the by-election in 2018 from Chengannur constituency by a record margin.
During the 2021 Assembly election, he won by a margin of over 30,000 votes beating his nearest rival.