Why The Muslim League Came Up With A Tame Resolution On Priyanka Vadra’s Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan Statement
Both Congress and IUML have problems of their own to address in Kerala, especially with elections only months away.
After raising a hue and cry over Congress general secretary Priyanka Vadra's statement lauding construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala has ended up with a whimper saying her comments were “inappropriate and untimely”.
Following Priyanka Vadra’s statement that the construction of the Ram temple will usher in national unity, brotherhood and cultural harmony, the IUML had called for an emergency meeting of its leaders in Kozhikode yesterday (5 August).
The meeting had raised expectations in political circles of the IUML taking some action against the Congress but in the end, the League issued a tame statement saying that it was upset with statements of the Congress leaders over Ram temple bhoomi pujan.
Top IUML leaders, including senior member of Parliament P K Kunhalikutty, took part in the emergency meeting that was chaired by party chief Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal.
Besides Priyanka Vadra, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath sent 11 silver bricks to Ayodhya on behalf of the Madhya Pradesh people, saying 5 August was “a historic day for which the entire country had been waiting”. He also organised a recitation of the Hanuman Chalisa at his residence in Bhopal.
The Congress leaders’ objective seemed to be to highlight the party’s role in events leading to the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.
Its leaders have said that the late Rajiv Gandhi was the first to take up the mandir issue by allowing the opening of the locks of the Ram Mandir and facilitate the shilanyas in 1989.
In 1991, the Babri Masjid was demolished when the late P V Narasimha Rao was in power. The union government under Rao also acquired land adjacent to the site.
The statements were objected to by the IUML, particularly in Kerala, where it is the second-biggest constituent of the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress.
Though the IUML called for a meeting at 1030 hours yesterday, no statement was issued at least until 1630 hours.
For the Congress, the IUML emergency meeting was an issue of concern since it was being called with hardly nine months to go for the assembly elections in Kerala.
The Congress and the UDF are hoping to regain power in the state, thanks to some slip-ups by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM).
In particular, their hopes have brightened following the Kerala gold smuggling case revelations that have dragged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office into a controversy.
One reason for the IUML to take its own time to come out with the tame statement is due to the Congress working overtime to reach out to it and assuage its feeling.
Many senior Congress leaders, led by another general secretary K C Venugopal, called on the IUML leaders and urged them to not take any hasty action, particularly when the state was heading towards elections.
The IUML, on the other hand, was under pressure after the CPM and its allies asked it to explain its stand on the Congress leaders’ statements.
It also took Congress leaders in Kerala to reach out to the High Command and seek its intervention so that IUML leaders can be pacified.
Senior Congress leader and former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy was the first to react to IUML concerns, saying the League was his party’s trusted partner and no one will succeed in trying to create a wedge between them.
That seemed to have worked immediately as Kunhalikutty agreed with Chandy’s views.
Both Congress and IUML have problems of their own to address. For the Congress, the League has been part and parcel of the UDF since the 1970s. The IUML had earlier been with the LDF and had enjoyed power in the 1967 EMS Namboodiripad government.
The League cannot be seen taking its partners’ statement on the Ram temple lightly going by the past experience. In 1991, it suffered a split soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Then, its senior leader Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait and other important leaders walked out of the party to form the Indian National League (INL).
On the other hand, the IUML also did not want to give the hardliners in the party an opportunity to carry out their agenda. Thus, it was forced to call an emergency meeting, which also forced the Congress to reach out to it.
Congress cannot afford to lose IUML at this juncture which can cause a setback to the UDF.
The IUML is crucial to Congress plans to regain power in Kerala since Muslims make up 26 per cent of Kerala’s population, a crucial factor at the hustings.
Congress needs these votes along with its assured bank of Christian voters, who make up 19 per cent of the state population, as the remaining Hindu votes are split in three ways.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made a good headway in recent years in cashing in on the Hindu votes. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won 15.63 per cent of the votes, though it failed to win any seat from Kerala.
Thus, Congress has to ensure that it mops up all available options to get votes and regain power in the state. The Congress is also looking to rope in some LDF constituents given the disappointment over the Vijayan government's functioning among some of them.
There are rumours of the Communist Party of India being unhappy with the LDF and wanting to come out. Thus, a realignment of political forces seems to be on cards in Kerala and the Congress wants to rope them in.
On the other hand, the IUML is under pressure with the CPM wooing its disgruntled and unhappy leaders. Muslim leaders such as T K Hamsa and K T Jaleel have been accommodated by the LDF with ministership in the Vijayan ministry.
The IUML is also under pressure as the LDF has reportedly gone soft on hardliners and allowed organisations such as radical Popular Front of India (PFI) some space to function in the state.
The state government shutting its eyes to Muslim men converting Hindu and Christian women and marrying them is seen as another attempt to woo Kerala Muslims.
According to social activists, over 100 such marriages have taken place during the lockdown period to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Also, the marriage of Vijayan's daughter to a Muslim is seen as another positive for the LDF. Thus, the IUML has to overcome these drawbacks’ and it was this that primarily engaged its leaders’ mind when the party called for an emergency meeting yesterday.
However, it is anyone’s guess if the IUML can get some crucial portfolios such as industries, education and urban development if it goes with the CPM.
These portfolios are ones through which the IUML reportedly controlled funding of institutions close to it during the UDF regime between 2011 and 2016. Thus, it had to measure its steps too.
Congress and IUML had to find a middle path somewhere. That has probably been found in a tame statement from the League.
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