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Religion blessed by Kerala Left
The Left Democratic Front in Kerala is backing six independent candidates from the minority communities, marking a departure of the Left from its class politics. None of these independents has been associated with the Left’s class struggles or mass organisations, which are where the LDF usually scouts for independents.
The CPM is backing five independents, four of them Christians and the fifth a Muslim, each contesting in a constituency where his community’s vote could be decisive. The CPI is backing a CSI Christian doctor, Bennet Abraham, to take on Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram, despite having a number of eligible candidates of its own.
In the last LS elections, the CPM had faced a Hindu backlash when it sponsored an independent nominated by terror case accused Abdul Nazer Madani in Ponnani.
The four CPM-backed Christian candidates are contesting in central Kerala. For the party, this is the first Lok Sabha election after the Kerala Congress (Joseph), a Christian party, left the LDF. The Joseph group had won Idukki for the LDF in 1999 and 2004, and lost in 2009, besides contributing to the LDF kitty in other constituencies.
It is to fill the Christian vacuum in Idukki that the CPM has turned to Joyce George, a leader of the church-backed High Range Protection Samithi, which has been leading an agitation against the recommendations of the Kasturirangan panel. This is an issue on which the CPM is on common ground with the church and the HRPS. The HRPS, with a Catholic priest as its chairman, had threatened to field candidates in Idukki if the UPA government did not withdraw the “anti-farmer report”. George, interestingly, hails from a family of Congress loyalists.
Ernakulam and Chalakkudy are the other two seats where the CPM is backing Catholics: former IAS officer Christy Fernandez and actor Innocent. Both constituencies, though considered safe for the Congress, have occasionally seen the CPM scraping through with Christians it has backed as independents.
In Pathanamthitta is Philipose Thomas, who has quit the AICC to contest as a CPM-backed independent. Tracts of land in this constituency, too, are in villages notified by the Kasturirangan panel report on the Western Ghats.
Another leader who has quit the Congress to contest with the CPM’s support is businessman V Abdurahiman in Ponnani, a seat the Left has often won, both by fielding party leaders and by backing people from the Muslim community.
K S Hariharan, convener of the Left United Forum (a body of rebel Marxist parties), notes the CPM usually scouts for independents only when it runs out of options, but has now backed independents even in Left strongholds. Five independents in a 15-member list show the CPM has abandoned its Left identity, Hariharan says. “The CPM cannot ensure its own cadres will vote for these independents,” Hariharan says.
Some of the independents have been accused of being paid candidates for various groups. Party state secretary P Vijayan dismisses the allegations against CPM-backed candidates. “Christy Fernandez has worked for the common people and Joyce George is popular leader with people living in the high ranges,” he says.
Congress state president V M Sudheeran mocks the CPM list as one with “guest artistes”. He says the CPM needs to explain why it was forced to make Congressmen Left-backed candidates.
The support to Dr Abraham in Thiruvananthapuram, one of the four constituencies allotted to the CPI, has upset the party’s youth youth outfit, AIYF. The AIYF had led agitations against a self-financing medical college run by Church of South India, and of which Abraham has been director.