Government cars numbered 1, 2 and so on have been allotted to the LDF ministers in Kerala, who assumed office on Wednesday. Car 13, however, is mysteriously missing from the list.
State car 1 was allotted to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Number 12 went to K T Jaleel (independent MLA) and number 13 should have gone to CPI minister P Thilothaman. But Thilothaman was allotted car 14.
Thilothaman said he was not aware of the issue. “I was allotted car number 14, which is yet to reach me. I did not deliberately avoid car number 13,” he said.
Car number 13 had been missing from the allotment lists of previous Kerala governments, too. But this time, it sparked allegations that Left ministers were avoiding car 13 due to a superstitious belief that the number 13 is an unlucky number.
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The state tourism department allots cars to ministers. According to Tourism Deputy Director (Hospitality) Raghu Das, it is the general administration department (political) that decides which car is allotted to which minister. “If the order does not contain number 13, naturally there will not be a car with that number,” Das said.
State Additional Protocol Officer A K Musthafa told The Indian Express, “The order allocating cars is issued after ministers choose their numbers. There were no takers for number 13,” he said.
BJP state general secretary K Surendran took a dig at the Left. He wrote on Facebook, “People have a right to know why CPM and CPI ministers, who go by dialectical materialism and socialism, have avoided the car with number 13. CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat should reply. Do they have the probity to tell people that 13 is an unlucky number?”
Baby, a CPM politburo member, opted for a car numbered 13 during his innings as Kerala Education Minister in the LDF government during 2006-11.
“In 2006, I was allotted car 10. Later I heard that the Kerala High Court did not have a judge’s chamber numbered 13. A rationalist moved a petition, but the high court rejected it. He moved the Supreme Court, which rapped the HC for promoting superstition. Then I learnt that there is no state car numbered 13. I moved a petition with the government, which issued an order numbering a car 13 and allotting it to me. Successive governments have not issued a car with number 13,” he said. On the current ministers allegedly avoiding car 13, Baby said the previous UDF government might have abolished that number.
Former tourism minister in the UDF government A P Anil Kumar said, “None of us (cabinet colleagues) used car 13 as it is considered unlucky,’’ said Kumar.