Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Aditynath equated the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) with the pre-partition Muslim League Friday. “Muslim League is a virus. If someone is affected by this virus, he cannot survive and today, the main opposition party- Congress is affected by it. Imagine, if they win what will happen? This virus will spread in the entire nation,” Adityanath said on Twitter. The BJP has raised questions about the support of the IUML to Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Kerala’s Wayanad constituency, and several BJP supporters have likened the IUML’s flag to that of Pakistan. What is the history of the IUML in Kerala and India?
Soon after Partition, the All India Muslim League, which had led the movement for Pakistan, was disbanded. Over the next few months, the party of Mohammed Ali Jinnah (who after the creation of Pakistan had become the Governor General of the new country) was succeeded by the Muslim League in West Pakistan and The All Pakistan Awami Muslim League in East Pakistan.
The Muslim League gave Pakistan its first six Prime Ministers, all of whom had short tenures, before it was dissolved by the martial law regime of General Ayub Khan. Ayub subsequently resurrected the party as the Pakistan Muslim League, which over the following decades splintered, reunited, was dissolved and reconstituted. The Pakistan Muslim League’s best known faction today is the one led by Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.
In East Pakistan, the Awami Muslim League championed the cause of Bengali nationalism, and sought to chart a course independent from Punjabi-dominated West Pakistan. Under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, East Pakistan ultimately broke free from the West.
In independent India, the All India Muslim League was succeeded by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), whose history was entirely different. The IUML fought elections under the Constitution of India, and has always had a constant, if small, presence in Lok Sabha. The IUML is the strongest in Kerala, and has a unit in Tamil Nadu as well. It has long been recognised by the Election Commission of India as a state party in Kerala. The IUML’s flag has a white crescent and star at the top left corner of rectangular green, and is clearly very different from the flag of Pakistan, which has a broad white strip to the left of a square green patch. The white crescent and star in the Pakistani flag is much bigger, and sits in the middle of the green.
The IUML has had two MPs in every Lok Sabha from the Third to the outgoing Sixteenth Lok Sabha, with the exception of the Second, in which it had no representation, and the Fourth, in which it had three MPs. A leader named B Pocker was a Member of the First Lok Sabha, representing the Madras State Muslim League Party from the Malappuram constituency, which was then part of Madras. The IUML had one MP, E Ahamed (Ponnani) in the Fourteenth Lok Sabha.
The IUML has long been a Congress ally, and is part of the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala. The IUML has 18 MLAs in the current Kerala House, and had 20 members in the 2011 Assembly.
Nationally, the best known IUML leaders have been Ahamed, a former union Minister, the educationist G M Banatwalla, and the veteran Cutchi Memon leader Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait. These three leaders, along with the current two-term sitting MP E T Mohammed Basheer, have represented the Ponnani seat in Lok Sabha continuously from 1977 onward. The Manjeri Lok Sabha constituency was also won by the IUML constantly from 1977 to 1999, before it became part of the Malappuram constituency. The Malappuram and Kozhikode seats too, have a very strong IUML presence. Malappuram, Kozhikode and Ponnani are all contiguous to the Wayanad seat where Rahul Gandhi is contesting.