The cold war between Congress and Muslim League, major partners in Kerala’s ruling United Democratic Front has erupted into a full fledged war. Major fighters for Congress in this war with league are KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala, power minster Aryadan Muhammad and former KPCC psdt K Muraleedharan, while Chief minister Oommen Chandy is the peacemaker in his own personal interest.
The war formally began with Ramesh Chennithala’s firing the first salvo with his speech at C.K Govindan Nair memorial held at Kozhikkode recently. CKG was former psdt of KPCC.
At the meet, Ramesh reportedly stressed the need for keeping Communal forces at bay and added that Muslim League has become a liability to Congress in Kerala. Aryadan Muhammad who spoke at the meet offered full support to Chennithala and said now he feels Ramesh has really become KPCC psdt. K Muraleedharan, son of K Karunakaran who used to support League earlier also offered support to Ramesh, saying that in the Congress-League alliance has been beneficial to League mainly and Congress should end kowtowing to Leagues’ increasing demands. Muraleedharan also pointed out that pressure groups won’t have anywhere to go if Congress distanced them.
New realities in Congress
The fight against Mulsim league and Coming together of Chennithala, Muraleedharan and Aryadan against League reflects the new developments in the Congress and changing political situation in Kerala. Chennithala who was bête noire of Muraleedharan recently declared ceasefire with him and joined hands to face the increasing domination of Christians and Muslims in Congress and UDF. There have been reports that the deal was brokered by Nair Service Society. Though publicly NSS still takes a tough posture at Chennithala, it is believed that the organization has a soft corner for Chennithala who is a Nair.
After Sukumaran Nair took charge as NSS general secretary, Muraleedharan had built bridges with NSS realizing that in the changed political situation in Kerala his earlier approach of soft support to Muslims won’t help him. After his successive defeats at Northern Kerala constituencies where Muslim vote is significant and recent victory at a Nair majority Thiruvananthapuram assembly constituency, Muraleedharan seems to have realized that it would be better if he has his own Nair community’s support. Muslim League is a now a force on its own and don’t need to support Nair leaders. NSS meanwhile seems to have advised all Nair leaders in Congress to join hands. In the wake of Nair-Ezhava unity it also aims to bring all Hindu leaders on a platform.
Muslim League and Nationalist Muslims
Meanwhile for nationalist Muslim leaders in Congress increasing power of Muslim League is a threat to their ambitions. This is a situation similar to the period of independence struggle and Muslim League Congress alliance then. Leaders like Aryadan Muhammad have realized this. As Muslim League’s strength is increasing manifold in Kerala, it would demand more assembly and parliamentary seats and minister posts. A stage would come when league would demand monopoly of Muslim representation.
When a large number of Muslims get position under League banner, Congress will have to give seats mostly to Hindus and Muslim leaders in Congress will be left in lurch. In this situation Muslim leaders in the Congress are forced to oppose league tooth and nail. This was the situation that resulted in Chennithala’s speech at Govindan Nair memorial.
Chennithala’s speech and aftermath
But situation in Kerala is not as simple as Chennithala thinks. It is clear that by his speech Chennithala wanted to give a rap to League without creating any backlash. He aimed to control League not destroy it. But Muslim League has grown so strong that Chennithala was forced to issue statement that his speech at CK Govindan Nair memorial was not against League. Chennithala clarified that he only quoted the views of Nair who as KPCC president in 1962 tried to implement the Durgapur resolution of AICC that there won’t be any electoral alliance with communal parties. The stand of Nair had lead to Muslim league walking out of tripartite alliance of Congress, PSP and Muslim League then. Meanwhile CM Oommen Chandy has come out with strong support to League. Chandy who is under the cloud of corruption allegations against his office needs league of existence.
Result of the controversy reflects the murky state of affairs in Kerala politics. Rise of League has become a reality. Frantic realignment of leaders belonging to Nair community and nationalist Muslims is taking place in Congress. Other Hindu community leaders may join them. Christian leaders in Congress will be divided with some seeking NSS support and others siding with League.
The emerging Muslim League centred politics may give an opportunity to BJP to gain a foot hold in Kerala. Demographic changes in Kerala means Muslim League will play a different role in future. Extremist groups may gain influence among Muslim League changing its present character. Anyway Kerala seems to be heading for a more communal era.