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Left breaks into Kerala’s League fortress

Friday 12 May 2006, by PI*Rajeev

KOCHI, May 11: As the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) swept the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) out of power in Kerala, winning 98 of the 140 seats, the results threw up three defining features.

The redundancy of the Muslim League, the legitimisation of a rapidly growing fundamentalist fringe in the state’s political space, and the assertion of the voters against leaders, from both fronts, under a cloud.

For the League, this poll has been a big jolt. Its strength in the state Assembly has been abruptly halved, all its top leaders in contest have been felled-strongholds in League heartland Malappuram have now gone to the Left, including unassailable bastions Tirur, Perinthalmanna and Kuttippuram.

But the signs have been getting ominous for some years now, as the League increasingly disconnected from its largest catchment area, the lower and middle-class Muslim population in a flux. Its top leadership consisting of affluent businessmen and hereditary clerics enjoying an almost Brahminical hold over the community, have been fast losing out to more appealing, if extremist, ideologies and pan-Islamic fervour.Long gone are the days when the League’s political and spiritual supremo Panakkad Syed Mohemmedali Shihab Thangal could just issue a diktat and the League candidates would win. The League’s USP as the community’s sole distributor of political manna and its supposed moderate-pluralist appeal were clearly wearing thin, which the surprise Left victory in the Lok Sabha bypoll in League fortress Manjeri underlined, two years ago. The Left, tasting blood, had since been pulling all stops to dig into League vote banks on its home turf-mixing Marxist and Muslim metaphors, juxtaposing Arafat and EMS on posters and talking Iran and Bush. The League, meanwhile, had done hardly anything to stop the erosion underfoot.

??The Muslim people seem to have finally realised that they were being taken for a ride all these years by the League. They have now expressed themselves against its self-serving leadership,’’ said CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

Another highlight of this poll’s results has been the near-total legitimisation of powerful fundamentalist groups in the state. The voting patterns and numbers in many constituencies speak for the contributions of the extremist People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami to the Left victory. This is the first-ever poll that the Left had openly acknowledged that it is getting the backing of such outfits that it had always dubbed communal and kept away from. While the Left insists there is no quid pro quo involved, there aren’t many takers for that.

Equally significant has been the electorate’s summary rejection this time of tainted politicians or those under a cloud, regardless of parties. Topping the list is P K Kunhalikutty, Kerala’s former Industries minister and state general secretary of the Muslim League, who is more known in relation to one of this state’s most reported sex scams. Kunhalikutty, who had never lost an election in the last 26 years, was beaten in his party fortress, Kuttippuram.

This was though witnesses in the sex scam that he figured in kept changing their depositions every time they were summoned, and the courts had to eventually let the minister off.

Kunhalikutty is not alone. The same fate has befallen Neelalohithadasan Nadar, transport and forest minister in the last Left Government of E K Nayanar until he was forced to quit-Nadar was accused of sexually assaulting two women civil servants and was later sentenced to imprisonment in both cases, which he has appealed against. Though Nadar has been invincible for decades in his constituency, he failed to win this time as an Independent, after the Left refused him a ticket.

R Balakrishna Pillai, who had won all his polls in the last 35 years, and T M Jacob, who had never lost since 1980, went down this time. Both were ministers in the current UDF government when A K Antony led it, and both face serious corruption cases. Pillai, incidentally, became the first ex-minister in Kerala to go to jail on corruption charges, a year ago.

Cherkalam Abdulla, the Muslim League bigwig who had been monopolising the Manjeswaram constituency for decades, eneded up a poor third this poll. Abdulla had stepped down last year as the local self-government minister, under a cloud of corruption charges. P Sankaran and K K Ramachandran, successive Health ministers in the UDF government, too had left their jobs under accusations of serious irregularities. Both have also been defeated this time.


See online : The Indian Express

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