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A verdict against Muslim League leadership

By R. Madhavan Nair

MANJERI, MAY 13. The rout of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) candidate, K.P.A. Majeed, in the Manjeri Lok Sabha constituency is undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises in the electoral history of the State. By trouncing Mr. Majeed by an impressive margin of 48,178 votes, T.K. Hamsa of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has disproved the belief that the IUML is invincible in the Muslim-majority Manjeri constituency.

The result has stunned the UDF, particularly the IUML. The bad news for the IUML leadership is that a large number of voters of the Muslim community have defied its fiat and chosen to vote for the LDF candidate in this election.

The fact that in the neighbouring Ponnani constituency, another traditional IUML stronghold, the IUML leader, E. Ahmed, has pulled off yet another spectacular win, the lone win for the UDF in this poll, with a margin of 10,278 has not dampened the spirit of IUML's critics. Resentment among League supporters against their top leadership and a strong fight put up by Muslim outfits opposed to the IUML brand of politics are believed to have led to the rout of IUML in Manjeri.

The defeat suffered by the IUML is widely seen as a strong signal of the growing resentment emanating from party cadres against the League's top leadership.

The Sunni group loyal to Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobacker Musaliar, the National Development Front (NDF), People's Democratic Party (PDP), Indian National League (INL) and the Jamaat-i- Islami Hind also have contributed in varying measures to the IUML electoral debacle.

IUML campaign managers alleged that militant and fundamentalist Muslim groups had ganged up against Mr. Majeed. League leaders are scanning the final results to find out if the recent infighting in the Congress also affected the result.

The popularity of the LDF candidate among the electorate was another key factor in the success story scripted by the LDF. Mr Hamsa, a former president of the Malappuram District Congress Committee before he joined the CPI(M), is acknowledged to be a shrewd politician with sharp communication skills.

The defeat of Mr. Majeed has spread gloom in the IUML camp. But there are quite a few party leaders who believe that the debacle in Manjeri was due to the party workers' growing dissatisfaction against the way League's affairs were being managed by Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal and `his sycophants.'

Some of the recent decisions of the League's top leadership had not been in tune with the mood of League supporters. The choice of P.V. Abdul Wahab as party nominee for the Rajya Sabha was one that was not to the liking of party men. The IUML Malappuram district committee had said a clear `no' to Mr. Wahab's nomination.

Mr. Majeed's choice as the party candidate also was against the wishes of the party units. All party units except the one in Manjeri Assembly segment were reported to have informed the top leadership that they were opposed to fielding him since they had doubts about his leadership qualities. However, their views were ignored. Mr. Majeed did not have the full backing of Mujahids even though the Muslim group has now split into two and are led by two different sets of office-bearers. The Jamaat-i-Islami Hind leadership had asked its cadres to take neutral stand in Manjeri. Many League campaigners had taken it as a veiled appeal to vote against League's candidate.

The League poll campaigners are reluctant to criticise their leadership in public but express the hope in private conversation that the Manjeri debacle would make the League top leadership shake off ``its complacency and take views of lower level workers more seriously.''

LDF leaders see the IUML defeat as a welcome sign of members of the Muslim community shaking off the stranglehold of community-oriented politics of the IUML and joining the mainstream of national politics. Many suspect that at least some of the senior leaders were aware of the anti-IUML sentiments prevailing in Manjeri even before this election. The League's general secretary, E. Ahmed, who had contested and won from Manjeri last time was shifted to Ponnani this time.

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