The CPI(M), the leading constituent of ruling LDF in the state, on Friday accused opposition Congress of “surrendering” its secular stance before the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), stating that it is now “led by Jamaat-e-Islami’s ideology”.
This comes on a day the Congress-led UDF decided on local-level electoral adjustments with organisations such as Welfare Party of India (WPI), political arm of Jamaat-e-Islami, for the coming local body elections in the state.
CPI(M) Politburo member and party’s state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media that IUML had “strongly opposed” Jamaat-e-Islami in the past. “Now, IUML has abandoned that stand and has no reservations to work with Jamaat-e-Islami, which wants to establish Islamic country. It is parallel to the stand of RSS, which aims at Hindu Rashtra. The decision of Congress to work with WPI would have far-reaching consequences,” he said.
The Jamaat, he said, has “supported reconversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. Stating that IUML had endorsed Jamaat’s stand on Hagia Sophia, he said, “The Congress has surrendered its secular outlook before IUML for a few votes. In the past, UDF had been led by leaders like Ooomen Chandy (former CM), P K Kunhalikutty (of IUML) and K Mani (of Kerala Congress).But it is now led by leaders such as M M Hassan (UDF convener), P K Kunhalikutty and Jamaat-e-Islami amir.’’
Hassan had recently held discussions with Jamaat’s Kerala amir, M I Abdul Aziz, sparking a debate in political circles about UDF’s electoral understanding with WPI in the civic body polls.
The CPI(M)’s critique comes a day after the LDF welcomed the Jose K Mani faction of regional Christian party Kerala Congress (M). Balakrishnan’s remarks are seen as an attempt to woo Catholic votes mainly in central Kerala districts. In Kerala, minority Muslim and Christian voters have traditionally backed the UDF. But with the Jose Mani faction in LDF now, the CPI (M) is seen as trying to divide this traditional vote-bank and winning over a section of Christian voters.
Besides, CPI(M) hopes to exploit an anti-IUML stand which has developed recently in Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) mainly on two issues. The Council had criticised IUML when the latter hailed conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, and also IUML’s attempt to enter into a local-level alliance with WPI for local body polls.
The powerful bishops’ organisation, traditionally pro-Congress, called the development a “growing influence of pan-Islamic politics”. In an article in KCBC’s recent newsletter, a top functionary wrote, “IUML is in the process of removing its secular robes. Islamic religious politics has been brought to fore under the banner of identity politics and has been established in mainstream politics in Kerala.”
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress said UDF will not forge any alliance with any party outside the coalition. “However, in civic body elections, UDF local leaderships can decide on local-level electoral adjustments. Such parties should have anti-fascist approach. It is up to the local leadership of UDF to decide on such moves,” he said.
In the past, Jamaat-e-Isami and its political wing have backed LDF. A few panchayats in north Kerala are governed by LDF with the backing of the Jamaat’s political wing. The Jamaat shifted loyalty towards UDF in 2019 General Election.
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