Following Kerala's United Democratic Front (UDF) - comprising the Congress and the Muslim League as its main constituents - suffering a setback in the recent local bodies' elections, and the internal blame game within the Congress, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi made some statements targeting the Muslim League which have triggered huge debates. Through a Facebook post Pinarayi Vijayan wondered whether the Muslim League was going to take over the leadership of the UDF; and without stopping there, the post went on to say that if that happens it would be anti-democratic and one that would plunge Kerala into communalism. There is ample room for reading into his post an implication that any organisation under a Muslim leadership will ultimately be communal. When Pinarayi employed this political logic – which will be music to the ears of ultra-secularists as much as to fascists - naturally it invited protests. Although the Opposition and community political parties came out against the statement, which could divide the state's population along communal lines, the chief minister has not been prepared for a retraction or correction. And in this matter he won the unstinting supported of his party too. Following this, when Samastha Kerala Jamiat-ul-Ulama, the prominent organisation among the Muslim community, retorted against the statement, several CPM leaders including its state Acting Secretary, has accused the Muslim body of being communally minded.
All the related responses and statements of the CPM leadership in this regard bear clear signs of the political posture of the CPM and the Left front keeping in mind the upcoming assembly elections. It is clear that the Left strategy is to maintain the upper hand it won in the local elections among upper caste Hindu and Christian segments of central Kerala. The seriousness of the chief minister's statement assumes added significance when one puts it in the backdrop of the propaganda among these sections in the recent past. The core of this propaganda is that Muslims of Kerala enjoy excessive and undeserved privileges in the name of its minority status as a result of which their communities fell into deep disadvantage. This is indicative of a strategy of pitching an entire community in the enemy camp. And to add spice to such contentions, allegations like 'love jihad' also are aired. The sangh parivar and the rightist lobby had earlier taken up these allegations, with no element of truth. But with a systematic involvement of the Catholic church, this debate again gathered some steam. The Muslim public in general had taken side with the Congress-led front in the last Lok Sabha elections with an all-India equation in mind. But a peeved Left front subsequently started trying to make good this vote loss by countervailing it with this narrative. But even prior to that, the Left ruling front had wooed the savarna forward caste sections by implementing the upper caste reservation in the state. Fitting in with this pattern, the CPM organisation and its organ have been consistently demonising Muslim-led parties. And it was in the same background that the recently relieved State Secretary of the CPM, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan made repeated mention that Kerala is going to be ruled by Hassan [Congress leader], Kunhalikutty [Muslim League leader] and Ameer [of Jamaat-e-Islami]. But the curious fact is that the agency that was subjected to the most aggressive allegations by this upper caste communal lobby, is the minority welfare department of Kerala government. Still the chief minister and the minister of the portfolio, and even the party, kept mum about these baseless allegations. Even the spin doctors of the Left are silent about this. They seem to be of the line that a little bit of anti-Muslim sentiment is part of the game, and any course correction of the party can be taken up after ensuring continuity the Left rule in the state.
It may give temporary benefit to the left government and the CPM if Pinarayi and his team makes a move of falling a prey to the agenda of this upper caste (savarna) minority community - the agenda of reaping the fruit of a persecution syndrome through false propaganda; but in the long term, the beneficiary of it will be the sangh parivar. For, through such scheming, the Muslim community who form 27 per cent of the state's population will either be alienated or rendered invisible. And how undemocratic would it be to insist that a party cannot assume leadership of an alliance just because Muslims are the majority in it! By that standard, isn't the CPM pursuing a line of Islamophobia that anything with the leadership or involvement of Muslims augurs danger? In fact, the evolution of anti-human laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is nothing but this politics of marginalisation. Pinarayi Vijayan is one of the chief ministers of the country who had moved a resolution in the assembly against CAA and got it passed. And to be fair, barring some exceptions his movement can claim a record of having stood by the minorities of the country. It is for him and his party to ponder whether it should forsake that legacy for purely temporary political survival.