When the counting of votes for Vanchinadu division in Vazhakkulam block panchayat in Ernakulam district was over last Wednesday,the mandate had gone to jail. That he is an alleged accused in the attack on college lecturer T J Joseph had not dented the popularity of N A Anas. Not far away from Muvattupuzha,where Josephs palm was chopped off allegedly by the activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on charges of insulting the Prophet,PFI leader Anas won the election with a thumping majority,going by the parameters of local body elections.
Slapped with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Anas (30) had not come out of jail to submit the nomination papers to contest as the candidate of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI),the political arm of the PFI. The candidate,an electronics teacher with a self-financing college managed by a Muslim trust,was absent in the campaign scenario as well. While rival candidates had spruced up the streets with posters,the SDPI took the message to the voters in the Muslim-dominated region that an innocent youth,father of a tiny tot,was languishing in jail.
Anas bagged the seat,defeating the candidates of the Congress,Left,Kerala Congress and Peoples Democratic Party in that order all of them Muslims. Seven months ago,a bypoll was held to the same division,in which the SDPI candidate had managed to finish third. This time,of the 15 seats under the division,the Congress had bagged nine and its ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) four. That apart,the local bodies in communally sensitive Perumbavoor had been swept by the Congress-led front. The SDPI had lost other seats which it had contested in the region.
Anas had been arrested on the charges of harbouring the assailants. But his brother Shihab said that after the attack on Joseph,a meeting was held in their house to discuss about the next days protest against police targeting innocent Muslims. One of the participants had stayed at the house, he said.
Local Muslim youths at Vanchinadu said Anas is a social activist. He used to give tuition to students,help parents find suitable courses for wards,and assist educated youths to apply for various jobs.
A tour through the division indicated that the SDPI campaign for Anas had been well-planned. Only a couple of posters soliciting votes were seen on roadsides and these had no reference to the case. Anass mother Amina and other family members had been roped in for campaigning. From jail,Anas had addressed the voters through a notice distributed across the constituency. After winning the election,the SDPI held a massive procession,without the winner.
His mother told the voters that if elected,her son would be released from jail. That appeal seemed to have worked with the women. But if he cannot come out of the jail to attend the panchayat meetings,he would be disqualified, A A Marikkar,a Congress worker, said.
Neither the Congress nor the CPM dared to campaign against Anas,fearing loss of votes. We had given a strong message to other parties not to ask for votes for the block panchayat where Anas was contesting, said Sathar,an IUML worker.
The mandate for Anas is a reflection of the Muslim mindset vis-a-vis the government handling of the attack on Jospeh. I do not support the SDPI,but I voted for Anas. I believe he was falsely implicated, said a voter,Ismayil Pallippuram.
The PFI had not unleashed a dusty campaign,but touched the cord of the voters,especially women. If we had gone for an open electioneering,it would have forced rivals to go on the defensive, said SDPI general secretary Abdul Majeed Faizy.
CPM Perumbavoor secretary N C Mohanan said the SDPI leader won the polls with Congresss support. The division from where Anas had won is impregnable for the CPM. The Congress and its allies traded votes for Anas to get the SDPI support elsewhere,he said.