With an eye on winning back a section of Hindu voters who had drifted away from the Left fold in the last Lok Sabha elections in the wake of the Sabarimala issue, CPI(M), the biggest constituent in the state’s ruling LDF, has brought to focus the Congress-led UDF’s electoral understanding with Welfare Party of India (WPI), the political arm of Jamaat-e-Islami in the local body polls, calling it “communal” politics.
The first phase of elections to the three-tier local bodies in Kerala is slated for Tuesday.
In its campaign pitch, the CPI(M) tried to portray the poll understanding as the Congress’s ostensible overture to “communal elements”, while the WPI has called it “hypocrisy” on part of the Communist party and pointed out that it was aligned with the LDF not long ago.
Both CPI(M) and the Congress, meanwhile, accuse each other of helping the Sangh Parivar increase its footprint in the state. Results of the civic body polls are significant in that they are generally considered to reflect the political mindset of the state, which is scheduled to hold Assembly polls next summer.
Welfare Party of India’s Left stint
Jamaat-e-Islami and its political wing were supporting LDF until the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In its debut in Kerala local body elections in 2015, the party had supported the LDF in several local bodies, and ruled a few as part of the CPI(M)-led coalition. Even in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, WPI state president Hameed Vaniyambalam points out, the party is with CPI(M).
On Monday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accused the UDF and the BJP of vying with each other to make political gains from communalism. The UDF, he said, has joined hands with both BJP and Jamaat, and that this “unholy nexus” would reflect in results.
CPI(M) state secretary and LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan said, “The Congress has gone into an alliance with WPI at the behest of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML, a UDF partner). The Congress has now adopted a stand that it can have alliance with communal forces. It is trying to give a public appeal for communal forces. This would lead to the Congress’s ruin.”
“That party’s (Congress’s) soft corner towards the Jamaat-e-Islami would only help further the Hindutva agenda of Sangh Parivar,’’ he asserted.
WPI state president Hameed Vaniyambalam countered, saying that his party has formed electoral understanding with UDF in many local bodies “to strengthen the secular side at the national level”, and maintained that the CPI(M) campaign would only help strengthen the Sangh. “When WPI was with LDF, we were secular and progressive, but when we moved to the Congress, we are now dubbed communal,” he said. “The CPI(M) campaign against WPI shows that party’s (CPM’s) double standard and hypocrisy.”
Congress general secretary K C Venugopal and state unit president Mullappally Ramachandran, meanwhile, played down the issue and denied an alliance with WPI. “The UDF has no alliance with any party outside the front. The Congress has a national policy not to have any alliance with communal outfits,’’ Venugopal said.
Senior Congress leader and UDF convener M M Hassan explained: “It is not an alliance, but only an understanding at the local level. The UDF’s understanding with WPI is neither a political decision nor does it have a centralised approach. In 2015 local body elections, WPI had been with the LDF. Now, the CPI(M) is aiming for communal polarisation by targeting UDF,’’ he said.
The UDF’s electoral tie-up with WPI has also irked a section of Sunni segment, which is the main support base of UDF ally IUML, with several Sunni leaders having flayed the alliance.
Besides, a section of Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, has recently taken strong exception to the poll alliance with WPI.
After the exit of a faction of regional Christian party Kerala Congress (M) from UDF, the Catholic Church has voiced concern about the growing influence of IUML within UDF. Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, an influential body, recently dubbed the entry of WPI into UDF electoral plank as “a growing influence of pan-Islamic politics”.
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