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Congress, CPM fight it out to own anti-CAA space in Kerala

If the row over entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala temple had shaken and stirred the state’s politics before last year’s Lok Sabha polls, competitive politics is now playing out all over again over CAA, with an eye on next year’s Assembly polls.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: January 22, 2020 6:02:39 am
kerala moves sc on caa, kerala caa protests, kerala citizenship law protests, kerala caa supreme court, pinarayi vijayan, kerala news, indian express CM Pinarayi Vijayan , Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala.

After West Bengal, if there is one state which has taken a very strident position against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, it is Kerala, and the reason perhaps lies in the deeply fractious politics of the state.

If the row over entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala temple had shaken and stirred the state’s politics before last year’s Lok Sabha polls, competitive politics is now playing out all over again over CAA, with an eye on next year’s Assembly polls.

In the deeply divided politics of Kerala, it came as a surprise when the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and opposition Congress-led UDF came together for a joint protest, and then to pass a resolution in Assembly opposing CAA.

Days later, in a rare move by a state against the Centre, Kerala moved the Supreme Court challenging CAA.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has subsequently announced that the state Assembly will pass a resolution against CAA. The comparisons does not end there but in a way reflects the competitive politics at play in both states, particularly in Kerala where the Congress and ally Muslim League and the CPI(M) are leaving no stone unturned to tap the sentiment against CAA and NRC.

So while Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are yet to pass a resolution against CAA, or take a strong position against NPR, which it argues is the precursor to NRC, the party’s Kerala leadership has been belligerent, as it has to compete with CPI(M) in a state which has a sizeable minority population.

Sources in Congress claim that CPI(M)’s Kerala leadership was initially ambivalent on taking a position on CAA, a contention the Left party’s leaders deny vehemently.

Congress leaders said the Sabarimala temple issue was perhaps the reason for the Left’s initial dithering. “The CPM lost considerable Hindu votes due to its strident position on Sabarimala. So it was initially apprehensive. But the party later realised that the mood in Kerala is against CAA and NRC,” a senior Congress leader said.

Sensing the CPI(M)’s dilemma, the Congress moved fast, its leaders claim. The party sought an all-party meeting and an Assembly session on CAA. The Muslim League moved Supreme Court first and Congress’s Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, announced on December 13 that he will implead in the case in SC. Congress’s Thrissur MP T N Prathapan approached the apex court a day later — on December 14.

The Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on December 11.

Within days, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan invited Chennithala to be part of a joint protest against CAA. But politics took over after the joint show of strength on December 16. State Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran openly opposed the joint protests, leaving the party leadership divided. Sensing the confusion in the Congress, the CPI(M) now moved fast. A day after the joint protests, the LDF announced it will organise a human chain on Republic Day and later invited the Congress to be part of it. The Congress refused.

The Chief Minister then convened an all-party meeting on December 29. Congress sources claimed its leaders had demanded at the meeting that the Assembly pass a resolution challenging the validity of CAA.

Two days later, a resolution was passed in Assembly.

On January 3, Vijayan wrote to his counterparts in 11 states, urging them to unite against CAA, and on January 14, the state government approached the Supreme Court against the new law.

Sources in both Congress and CPI(M) say their cadre are on the ground, campaigning against CAA, NPR and NRC.

Sources said the strident positions taken by the political rivals in Kerala, and the TMC and CPI(M) in Bengal, is due to electoral compulsions. “Our party in many other states, or our state governments (in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh), don’t have to compete for the anti-CAA or anti-NRC space. There are no other parties in states (to oppose these moves) where we are in power. That is not the case in Kerala or in Bengal,” a Congress leader from Kerala said.

Consequently, the gloves are off and the two parties are engaged in a war of words.

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