Girish Menon

Congress is worried about communalising textbook row

Say there is no need to withdraw textbook

UDF panel to meet on July 8

Thiruvananthapuram: The Communist Marxist Party (CMP), led by M.V. Raghavan and the Janadipathya Samrakshana Samithy (JSS), led by K.R. Gouri, have broken ranks with the United Democratic Front (UDF) partners on the Class VII social science textbook.

Contrary to the other UDF partners’ demand for the total withdrawal of the textbook, the two parties have said that there is no need to withdraw the textbook and that they do not share the agitation style adopted by the other partners.

The two parties find it difficult to accept the other partners’ contention that the textbook propagates communist ideas and is irreligious. They have no differences on the quality aspect and a few other objections that have been made with regard to the contents of the book, including the one that Sree Narayana Guru and the freedom fighters of India had been ignored. Being parties propagating communist ideologies, they have made it clear that it would be difficult for them to oppose the textbook for propagating communist and Left ideas. Besides, the leaders of the two parties have been reluctant to join any agitation as the UDF as a coalition has not announced the agitation.

The Congress, the Kerala Congress (M) and the Kerala Congress (Jacob) have staged agitations against the textbook in one form or the other. The Congress and the Kerala Congress (M) have also sponsored agitations by their youth and student organisations that have become violent owing to some harsh police action. While the Kerala Congress (Jacob) indefinite hunger stir in front of the Secretariat is now almost one-week old.

The Indian Union Muslim League has adopted a different approach to the whole issue. After the initial burning up of textbooks by its student wing the Muslim Students Federation, it is now focusing on regrouping the Muslim organisations on the textbook issue.

The CMP and JSS’s opposition to the textbook issue hardly matters to the UDF leadership. According to a senior Congress leader, all parties in the coalition are free to take their own independent position on various issues. As for the CMP and the JSS, their positions are of no consequence as they do not have a large support base. According to leaders of the two parties, the UDF has not officially met for more than two months. It has not been convened owing to the differences between the Congress and the IUML over the Aryadan issue.

It was only the other day that the Congress settled its issues with the IUML leadership, giving in to several of the latter’s demands. The only occasion that the UDF leaders sit together is at the joint parliamentary party meeting on the day the Assembly session began on June 23, pointing out to the difficult times for the UDF as a coalition. “The agitation is turning out to be a test of strength between the Congress and the other major coalition partners on the textbook issue and we have no role in it,” according to the leaders of the two parties.

Some of the Congress leaders are worried at the turn of the opposition to the textbook is taking. They are uncomfortable with the open involvement of the religious and caste organisations that have succeeded in giving it a religious colour. They do not share Mr. Mani’s opposition to the textbook on religious grounds. “Of course, the textbook issue presents the Congress party to mobilise sections that had abandoned it in the last elections. But we are worried at the new turn the agitation is taking. If this issue is not addressed at the earliest, it will be difficult for the Congress as a party to take the agitation forward,” according to a senior Congress leader. The UDF high power committee is expected to meet on July 8 to discuss how the agitation and its objectives could be kept on course to put pressure on the LDF government to reconsider its decision.