Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Monday, April 07, 2014

Elections Tracker: The Church, Muslim League And The Congress In A Tight Secular Embrace In Kerala State

By M Diwakar | Trivandrum

OPINION I have no doubt that  Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister and the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, will help his party sweep the polls on the development plank. However, please note that this vote for development will be cast entirely by the Hindus, with negligible or little support from Christian and Muslim voters.

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, had sought the support of the Shahi Imam of Delhi to shore up the secular cause. The Shahi Imam, the arch-secularist, responded by asking Muslims and others to vote for the secular Congress. Students of journalism must realize that under India’s peculiar notion of secularism, only the Muslims and Christians qualify to be secular. The others too are, as long as they identify themselves as Dalits, upper caste, OBCs, etc. The moment they call themselves Hindu, they become communal.
If you do not believe this, welcome to Kerala, where power has decisively shifted to the minorities. Today, there is rampant unemployment, alcoholism and a total lack of development, but the Congress-led UDF government, under  Oomen Chandy, is safe. The minorities want political power; with it comes development—for them. Talking of  Chandy, did you notice that he and  A.K. Antony, the Union Defence Minister, are the tallest Congressmen in Kerala? They belong to the 20 percent-strong Christian community. They will rule, until the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) decides to strike. But that will take a while.

Antony is an honest man. The last time he was CM (2001-04), he made a statement about the majority community being marginalized in Kerala. The Church and the IUML asked him to shut up, as did his own Congress party.  Antony hasn’t spoken about it since.

The IUML is the third largest party in Kerala, after the CPI (M) and the Congress. It can very well afford to ask the Congress to hand over the chief ministership to it. And, since the IUML and the Congress are both secular, there would be no harm if such a thing came to pass. However, the IUML is unlikely to do so in the near future. Why? Because that would bring the focus on themselves and on the way the Muslim population is growing in Kerala.

According to official figures, leaked by www.marunadanmalayali.com, an online Malayalam portal, the Muslim population in Kerala rose from 22.7 per cent to 25.67 per cent in a decade. Mallapuram district comes first with 61 per cent and Kannur ranks second with 35.2 percent Muslim population. The chief ministership will come any way to the IUML at some future date.

Right now, IUML ministers hold the important portfolios of education, industry, panchayat, urban affairs and public works. The party has parked its men in all vital posts in the departments it controls. Though the UPA government kept to itself the UPpolls380-pticensus figures of religious groups in the country, it used the data to identify districts where the minorities were in a majority and pampered them with special funding. 

It’s a kind of protection racket: vote for us and we will take care of your interests. And this exactly is what is happening in Kerala. In 1897, aghast at the cruel treatment of the lower castes by the so-called upper castes in Malabar, Swami Vivekananda said the “Malabaris are all lunatics.” Then it was caste lunacy, now it is minorityism, as, slowly, but surely, Kerala goes the Kashmir way.

The Church, the other important, if invisible, constituent of the UDF is aware of the growth in Muslim population and has informally asked its members to have more babies. It controls the UDF through the two factions of the Kerala Congress, the Mani group and the Joseph group. Till a few years ago, one of the two factions would ally with the other huge secular grouping, the LDF, led by the very secular CPI (M), but the Church asked the two groups to avoid the godless Communists and they fell in line.

Godless, yes, but not when it comes to the minorities. In fact, among national parties, the Communists are the biggest practitioners of bogus secularism after the Congress party. The first Communist-led government (1957-59) of the late E.M.S. Namboodripad continued the British practice of taking over temple land, without paying a paisa in compensation. The vast land holdings of churches and mosques were not touched. Today, the huge temples of Kerala are entirely dependent on contributions from devotees. Since only a few temples make money, the others languish for want of funds.

Similarly,  Namboodiripad imposed stringent land ceiling laws in the state. Land, beyond the ceiling level, belonging mostly to Hindus, was confiscated and distributed to the landless. Plantations in the hill ranges were exempted, as these were mostly Christian-owned. Muslims shrewdly saw the move coming and effected land transfers among themselves. 

The law nullified these transfers. A Muslim League government, led by  C.H. Mohammed Koya, was in power for 54 days, from October 12 to December 1, 1979. Its sole purpose was to amend the land ceiling laws to legalize the transfers that took place before the law came into effect. The Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1979, was passed, after which the government allowed itself to collapse. Governments since then have allowed this amendment to remain in the statute book.

E.M.S, the great revolutionary, became the chief minister a second time, in 1967, with the help of the IUML. He promised the party a Muslim-majority district, if they made him CM. His second term lasted two-and-a-half years, but he created the Muslim-majority district of Mallapuram by bifurcating Kozhikode.

The CPI (M) comes to power entirely on the Hindu vote, but spends the next five years pampering the minorities, hoping that they would vote for it in the next elections. In 2009, for instance, the LDF government allotted land free to Christian and Muslim-run educational institutions. The left does this as a sort of insurance against the falling Hindu population, which is down from 60 to 55 per cent in less than two decades. The left is aware that as the Hindu population keeps falling, so does its chances of coming back to power.

The media writes about the plight of the left in West Bengal. Ms Mamata Banerjee might look strong today, but sooner or later, the Trinamool Congress has to cede ground to the left. As of now, the Hindu population in West Bengal is about 70 per cent, fair picking, therefore, for the left and the TMC. The left has a chance, say, till unabated migration from Bangladesh swells the population of Muslims in Bengal. 

Then, we will, perhaps, see a Kerala-type UDF, led by a Mamata Banerjee or by some other Congressman/woman. For, unlike his Hindu counterpart, why would a Muslim voter put his eggs in a godless CPI (M) basket? An excellent example of this kind of communalism—oops, secularism, is the situation in neighbouring Assam. With a 35 per cent Muslim vote, and a divided Hindu vote, Assam, as of now, is firmly in Congress hands.

As for Kerala, the left is at the crossroads. Torn by dissensions at the top, and poached by a resurgent BJP at the bottom, the left is unlikely to come to power in the next elections too. Political pundits, most of them secular and politically correct, have been discussing for months whether it was the turn of the LDF to emerge victorious in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that the minorities are solidly behind the UDF. The small percentage point that usually separates the UDF and LDF has grown to almost double digits now, thanks to the emergence of the BJP.

All is not, however, lost for the left. It is quite possible that if the BJP does not convert its votes into seats, the frustrated Hindu may go back to the CPI (M) in the next assembly elections. Nothing will change for the Hindus, though, for, as I said, an LDF government would continue the UDF policy of wooing the minorities, for they are the present and the future of Kerala.
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