The IUML is trying to control the damage after senior leader K N A Khader attended an event affiliated with the RSS in Kozhikode on Tuesday. While Khader defended his move, the IUML might find it harder to do so given that it is the largest political party of Muslims, a member of the Congress-led UDF, and projects itself as a robust shield against the RSS in Kerala.
A three-time MLA, the 72-year-old Khader participated in a cultural event organised by Kesari, a vernacular weekly linked to the RSS. He also received a memento from J Nandakumar, an RSS idealogue and national convenor of the Prajna Pravah, which describes itself as an “umbrella organisation of several nationalist think tanks”.
Khader went on to praise the RSS leader at the event and expressed his desire to enter the Guruvayur temple where the entry of non-Hindus is barred.
No stranger to controversy, Khader, who joined the IUML from the CPI back in 1987, has often raised what would be considered “Hindu concerns” in the past. In 2021, he contested the Assembly elections from Guruvayur, but lost. Incidentally, the nomination papers of the BJP candidate from the seat had been rejected, leading to speculations of a deal at the time.
He had also invited criticism from a section of the Muslim community for visiting the Guruvayur temple and offering his respects standing outside, during the campaign.
At the height of the anti-CAA protests by the Muslim community, Khader had said the “IUML would help people fill applications for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act”.
For the IUML, Khader’s move comes at a time when it is trying to retain its Muslim vote against a resurgent People’s Front of India (PFI). The ruling CPM, which is trying to woo the minority vote away from the Congress, has been questioning the IUML’s credibility to fight the Sangh Parivar.
With the PFI and RSS involved in a series of attacks and counter-attacks, the PFI is fast establishing it as a prime challenger to the Sangh in Kerala.
IUML state president Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal said the party didn’t view Khader’s move favourably. “A disciplined party worker should have a clear idea where to go and which functions to attend. Various factors should be considered before taking a decision on attending a function, stepping into a venue,” he said.
Senior IUML leaders P K Kunhalikutty and M K Muneer criticised Khader. “It (his presence at the RSS event) was against IUML policies. The IUML is against both the RSS and the Popular Front of India (PFI). The party will examine the issue,’’ said Muneer.
Justifying his move, Khader released a video, saying: “I have attended the event with an innocent mind, that there should be better cooperation and harmony among all religions. I say only positive things about all religions. When the IUML is conducting outreach programmes to improve ties with other religions, what is wrong in me attending it (the RSS event)?”
Meanwhile, the RSS has lent its support to the IUML leader, suggesting it was ready to go all the way to support him. N R Madhu, RSS pracharak and Kesari weekly chief editor, said: “Khader was invited for the event as he has a national and humanistic outlook. He will not face any trouble to survive even if the IUML sacks him.”