Left, Congress or IUML? Kerala’s 29% Muslim vote remains divided

The Muslim vote had gone largely with the CPI-M-led LDF in 2006 and then in the recent local body elections.

Written by Liz Mathew | Thanur (malappuram) | Updated: April 27, 2016 8:43 am
At VS rally in Malappuram. Liz Mathew At VS rally in Malappuram. (Source: Liz Mathew)

A tug-of-war for Kerala’s crucial Muslim vote has raised the prospect of a division. The Muslim vote had gone largely with the CPI-M-led LDF in 2006 and then in the recent local body elections. Yet strategists in the Congress-led UDF, which includes the Indian Union Muslim League, as well as some communist leaders agree that Muslims have started drifting back towards the ruling front.

The CPM had campaigned intensely during the beef controversy but Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the IUML too have since made consistent efforts to win back a community that constitutes 29 per cent of the population.

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As for the BJP, not everyone in Muslim-majority Malappuram appears insecure about the party’s emergence. “Here we feel safe. We have a party to raise our issues. And all important parties in the state stand for us,” said N M Ali, a driver in Thiroorangadi.

“But,” said Muhammad Riaz, a CPM leader in Kozhikode, “recent trends like celebrating Rakshabandan and Ganeshotsav as exclusively Hindu festivals has created fear among some Muslims.”

In his speeches, CPM veteran V S Achuthananandan has been talking of “evil powers like Sangh Parivar” and its “anti-minority stands”. At a rally Sunday in Perinthalmanna, Malappuram, he said: “RSS leader (M S) Golwalkar has said this country needs neither Muslims nor Christians. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while he was chief minister of Gujarat, had let a massacre of around 3,000 Muslims happen… I am just reminding you of these incidents.”

In the November local body polls, the LDF won 47 of the 75 seats in Kozhikode corporation, besides 30 of the 94 panchayats, two of 15 blocks and four of 15 municipalities in Malappuram — all Congress-IUML strongholds. Overall, the LDF won 545 of 938 gram panchayats, 91 of 152 blocks, and seven of 14 districts, a sign that it retained its Hindu base besides winning Muslims over.

The IUML, which owes its clout to the 15-odd seats it often bags in Malabar region, is working at regaining lost ground. “The UDF is doing a lot for this region,” said Panakkad Hyderali Thangal, IUML leader and spiritual head of Muslims in the region. “Roads and institutes have come up. The CM’s mass contact programme has improved our image. More youth are getting close to us now.”

N P Chekkutty, a Kozhikode-based political analyst, said, “As if he has realised the impact of his wavering stand on the Dadri killing and the beef raid in Kerala House —both had shaken Muslims in Malabar—Chandy has stepped in. In the last six months, he visited Malabar region frequently, interacted with people, met community leaders… It seems to have started working. When he visited a school, a class IV student called out his name and asked him to get a house built for her poor friend. He may or may not do it, but he has an image of being accessible.”

Chekkutty said the IUML, having also lost many of its strongholds in southern Kerala, has taken care while selecting candidates not to upset party workers. “So the Muslim vote, which went towards the UDF in 2011, and towards the LDF in 2006, may not go the same way as in the panchayat polls,” he said. The IUML won 16 seats in Malappuram in 2001, 7 in 2006 and 20 in 2011.

The IUML has striven to give Kerala’s Muslims. But, “IUML leaders have become power-hungry, people feel cheated by them,” said Moideen, who has returned from Saudi Arabia to start a small shop in Mankada.

The IUML’s fluctuating fortunes have given rise to smaller but hardline forces like Abdul Nasir Maudany’s People’s Democratic Party, Indian National League, Welfare Party and Social Democratic Party of India.

M N Karassery, writer and columnist on political and social issues, said a section of Muslim youths are insecure about “beef politics” and the Sangh Parivar. “This fear is leading them towards extremist forces like SDPI – which draws its inspiration from SIMI – and Welfare Party. It’s a very dangerous trend.”

Hameed Chennamangaloor, a social commentator, gave another reason: “People have noticed the CPM is not committed to secularism but will sacrifice its secular credentials for electoral gains. So disillusioned youth started moving towards the RSS and Muslim fundamentalist groups. Hameed dismissed the idea of homogeneity: “Muslims are divided on political, economical and cultural aspects. So are their votes, among the CPM, the Congress, the IUML and other parties.”


  1. C
    Apr 27, 2016 at 4:58 pm
    The Muslim votes in the past, especially in the district of Mallapuram, was cornered by the IUML. However, times are changing as witnessed in the last Panchayat elections and Muslims in Kerala are showing a slight twist towards the policies of the left. The IUML had credible and secular leaders in the past but the present leadership consist of leaders who have more business interests than political interests.
    1. A
      Apr 27, 2016 at 9:44 am
      People who divided the country on religious line are calling themselves 'secular'.
      1. A
        Apr 27, 2016 at 2:18 pm
        The 29% Muslims would vote for the candidates who have better chances of winning against BJP. They will ensure BJP is defeated.
        1. P
          Apr 27, 2016 at 1:10 pm
          Muslims Christians in Kerala will vote even corrupt candidates for their religion ,whereas the Hindu votes are divided. This concept of secularism has to change and all should vote fro progress and growth.
          1. G
            George Cruz
            Apr 27, 2016 at 1:49 pm
            The real facts are that Kerala is infested with the corrupt communists ,the communal/corrupt congress party , and the Christians/Muslims who are blinded by their religion who FALSELY think that they are secular/tolerant, and support these corrupt parties blindly for their self interests. Kerala is a majority Hindu state, with many historic Hindu temples, rich Hindu religion/culture, and it is imperative that the BJP make inroads into Kerala during this election and take the state back from the ruins left by the corrupt communists and pseudo secular congress s. Are Muslims/Christians in Kerala secular/tolerant as they claim????? Absolutely NOT.
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