The Muslim League is wary and on its toes with several youth bodies urging Asaduddin Owaisi to launch his party in Kerala, which has 26 per cent Muslim population. The AIMIM has recently tasted success in the Bihar assembly elections, winning five seats. The party is also involved in intense negotiations with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for the upcoming assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
Though League leaders say Owaisi’s brand of politics won’t sell in Kerala, they are cautious about his possible entry at a time when another minority, Christians, appeared to have moved to the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) camp against the Muslim consolidation. The recent local body election hints towards it.
League leaders said the ruling CPI(M) played a “dirty communal card” to shore up the support of Christians, who constitute 18 per cent of the population, and a section of the majority community to tilt the balance in its favour. An article written by a League leader in party mouthpiece ‘Chandrika’ lauding the takeover of Hagia Sophia, a 1500-old Orthodox Christian cathedral in Turkey, and ‘love jihad’ bogey were used extensively to influence them, they said.
In Kerala, the League has been enjoying the support of the community for more than four decades and political observers often attribute its presence to peaceful communal co-existence in the state. But there is a strong feeling in the community recently that League MPs had shown little regard in reflecting Muslim sentiment in Parliament during discussion on vital issues like Ram temple, Citizenship (Amendment) Act(CAA), triple talaq, among others.
Many organisations which nurse extreme views have started a campaign against the League citing these issues. Cut-outs of Owaisi had appeared at many places in north Kerala after Parliament debates on temple and CAA. But League leaders dubbed it “a futile whisper campaign” and felt fascination for Owaisi was only an emotional reaction from a miniscule section of youth.
“The Muslim League has a strong presence in Kerala for many decades and nobody can weaken its base. Earlier also many outfits with extreme views tried to hijack our plank but failed. Owaisi’s brand of politics is not suitable for Kerala,” said League senior leader PK Kunhalikutty MP, who is planning to return to state politics after a brief sojourn in Delhi. The party had announced its decision to field the Malappuram MP in assembly elections due in four months.
He said the situation of the community in north and south India was totally different. “In Kerala there is no ghettoisation and people from community enjoy an equal footing and status in all spheres. Their rights and privileges are protected strongly. People are educated and informed which acts as a bulwark against hatred or extremist views here,” he said.
Since coalition politics was experimented in Kerala by the late Congress leader K Karunakaran in the late 1970s, the League has been in the Congress camp. Unlike its northern counterpart, in Kerala the League is known for its moderate face. Its late leader E Ahamed was twice the minister of state for external affairs in former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. Many young leaders now want the League to take a strong position in the light of campaign carried out by Sangh Parivar and Communists and ensure a pan-India presence. Though the party has units in many states, it is mainly confined to Kerala and other southern states, they feel.
“Owaisi can’t make any impact in other southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the community is more focused and socially developed. In the last two-three decades, the community gave much importance to education so unlike north India, its members can’t be swayed easily on emotional issues,” said Ashraf Kadakkal, an Islamic historian and author.
However, even as IUML was apprehensive of MIM’s possible foray, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led party said it had no plans to enter the southern state. While Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi could not be reached, a party leader who did not want to be identified said the MIM had no plans to contest elections in Kerala.
“Right from the beginning, Owaisi saab has been making it clear that the party won’t foray into at least three states – Kerala, Assam and Kashmir. We have been standing by it. Our party doesn’t have any base in Kerala and so there’s no chance of us contesting the elections,” the MIM leader said.
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