A Very Short History Of Indian Union Muslim League In Kerala 

 A Very Short History Of Indian Union Muslim League In Kerala IUML Cadre
Snapshot
  • The IUML is an ally of the Congress in Kerala, and has come into sharp focus after Rahul Gandhi chose to enter the electoral fray from Wayanad.

Kerala has come into sharp political focus nationally after Indian National Congress (INC) president Rahul Gandhi decided to contest from Wayanad constituency in Kerala. A major talking point has been the demographics of the constituency, and the support for the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the Congress in the region. Here, we attempt to present in short, the history of the IUML.

The IUML was founded in 1948 in Madras, by the remnant Indian Members of the All India Muslim League, led by M Mohammed Ismail. A new party by the name of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was thus formed “to advance ..[the interests] of Muslims in the Union”.

The party was divided over questions of whether or not to ally with the Congress, but its demands in the run-up to the 1952 general elections were refused by the Congress high command.

The formation of Kerala state, which included the Malabar region which had a substantial Muslim population, altered the course of their politics. In the first Kerala State Legislative Assembly Elections held in 1957, the Communist Party of India (CPI) came into power. The state government set out to implement a radical agenda that led to dissatisfaction from social groups such as the Nairs and the Christians, leading to the Vimochana Samaram (Liberation Struggle).

The Kerala unit of the Muslim League allied with the Congress and the then-existing Praja Socialist Party (PSP) to form a joint committee to pull down the Communist government, which eventually happened in July 1959. In the subsequent 1960 elections, the PSP, the IUML, and the Congress allied and swept the elections. However, in the eventual government, the IUML did not get cabinet positions. Instead, KM Seethi Sahab of the party was given the Speakership.

The alliance eventually broke down, and the League exited the partnership in 1961. After a long period of political instability, a seven-party coalition including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI and the IUML came to power with EMS Namboodiripad as Chief Minister, in 1967. It was under this ministry that the infamous decision was taken to carve parts of Palakkad and Kozhikode districts to create a Muslim-majority Malappuram district. However, this alliance too did not last long, with the Muslim League and the CPI joining the Congress to form a new government under C Achutha Menon.

The League eventually stayed put with the Congress, going on to become a founding member of the United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition. CH Mohammed Koya was the only member of the IUML to occupy the Chief Minister’s seat, having lasted 50-odd days during the turbulent late 1970s.

Koya remains till date the only Muslim Chief Minister of Kerala. His son, MK Muneer, is a prominent Muslim League politician and currently the Deputy Opposition Leader. The League has been led for long by members of the Panakkad Thangal family, considered to be the religious leaders of the Sunni community in Kerala. Currently, the Panakkad Sayyid Hyderali Shihab Thangal is the president of the Kerala chapter of the IUML.

Another prominent leader is P K Kunhalikutty, a former Industries minister and currently MP from Malappuram. The IUML enjoys a substantial amount of support from the Muslim community in the state, but more radical and extreme groupings such as the Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and Welfare Party of India (WPI) have gained some traction lately.

The IUML is contesting in two seats under the UDF banner in Kerala, Malappuram and Ponnani. They have retained their sitting MPs in both seats, and it is expected that they both will win with thumping majorities on 23 May. The IUML’s support will no doubt prove crucial for Rahul Gandhi’s victory in Wayanad too. They also have substantial influence in Kasargod and Kozhikode constituencies and will prove to be a crucial factor in the likely victory of INC candidates there.

Krishna Thannezth is a student of National Law University. He can be reached at krishnathannezth@gmail.com, and here on Facebook and Twitter.

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