PA Muhammad Riyas is the youngest member in the new Kerala cabinet.

Muhammad RiyasFB / Muhammad Riyas
news Politics Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 11:55

PA Muhammad Riyas, 45, who contested in the recent Assembly elections and won with a record majority of 28,747 votes, is set to be the youngest member of the new Kerala cabinet. Riyas, a native of Kozhikode and an advocate by profession, is the son of former police commissioner PM Abdul Khader and KM Ayishabi. He will most likely hold two portfolios — Tourism and Public Works Department.

Riyas, who began his political career through the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and later became the Kozhikode district secretariat member of SFI and state joint secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), is currently state committee member of the CPI(M) and national president of the DYFI.

It was in June 2020 that Riyas married Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter Veena T, an IT entrepreneur. The wedding took place at Cliff House, the official residence of the Kerala CM, in the presence of close relatives and friends.

Though Riyas has been in politics for years and holds a leadership position in the DYFI, his proximity to the Chief Minister will likely be a major weapon used by the Opposition to attack the government and the CM in the coming days.

Riyas was included in the cabinet as a representative of the youth wing of the party. As a national leader of the DYFI, he was active in agitations against the NDA government held in Delhi, including anti-CAA protests. But Opposition parties have begun to criticise Riyas, who won the election for the first time this year and is now a part of the cabinet. BJP’s state President K Surendran wrote against the appointment of Riyas as minister in a Facebook post. He also criticised the induction of R Bindu, wife of state secretary of CPI(M) A Vijayraghavan, in the cabinet. Bindu is the former mayor of the Thrissur Municipal Corporation.

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The first Pinarayi Vijayan government in 2016 faced major embarrassment after a nepotism row erupted, after which Industries Minister and senior CPI(M) leader EP Jayarajan had to quit the cabinet. A series of appointments of close relatives of CPI(M) leaders in various government institutions was highlighted in the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) campaign for the Assembly election this time. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had come out with a list of around 15 instances of nepotism.

Riyas had contested the Lok Sabha election in Kozhikode constituency in 2009, but he was defeated by MK Raghavan by 838 votes. While Raghavan secured 3,42,309 votes, Riyas managed to secure 3,41,471 votes. At the time, Riyas was not a popular face in the party. Additionally, infighting within the party between veteran leader VS Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan factions was a major disadvantage for him in the polls.

But this time, the party chose him to contest in Beypore where it has a strong voter base, seeing remarkable performances by VKC Mammad Koya and Elamaram Kareem, who represented the constituency in the last two terms. As he served as district president and secretary of DYFI, he was popular among the grassroot workers of the party. Being the son-in-law of the Chief Minister was also an advantage for Riyas as he was chosen as candidate in one of CPI(M)’s assured seats. The decision turned out to be correct as he retained the seat for the party with a record margin victory.

Aiming to fight COVID-19, Riyas launched the 'Nammal Beypore' project in his constituency last week. The project aims to ensure supply of medical oxygen, pulse oximeters and medicines in all hospitals in Beypore. A control room has been opened in the constituency as part of the project.

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