While far-reaching political and social implications inhere the outcome of the coming general election, with the ruling Congress-led alliance facing serious challenge mainly from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at the national level, the political landscape of the minority communities in the State remains largely fragmented as wide swathes of their conflicting political interests divide them, leaving them with no common cause that should define larger issues.
Watching the political discourses that mark the community interests of the minority communities in the State, Muslims and Christians, at a time when Mr. Modi is confronting the Congress in a big way, one gets the impression that there is no rallying cause for them that transcends the local issues and interests affecting the people of those communities as expressed in the agitation against the K. Kasturirangan report. There too, the disparity in the political posturing and positioning between the political and community organisations representing the two communities cannot be sharper.
Voice of the Church The vociferous voices of Church leaders and political leadership representing the Christian community demanding the scrapping of the reports and recommendations of the panels constituted to propose measures for conserving the Western Ghats stand in sharp contrast to the largely mute stance of the fractured political and religious leadership representing the community interests of the Muslims.
‘‘There is no single face to minority politics in the State during the general election,’’ says a political observer.
Not only is there no apparent common cause that marshals that political movements representing the minority communities, there is also no clear political articulation on the campaign by the BJP riding on optimism. Though the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) remains the political party representing the mainstream of Muslims, the community, as always, remains a splintered entity as far as its political bargaining power is concerned.
Different political interests and issues are reflected in disparate and mutually antagonistic sects and factions of the Muslim community in the State. The emergence of new political entities such as the Jamaat-e-Islami-sponsored Welfare Party and the Social Democratic Party of India controlled by the Popular Front of India with their own radical approaches may not yet be a challenge to the IUML. But the nascent radical political groupings will be seen as divisive within the community.
No challenge to IUML
The supposed political affiliations of the major Sunni factions in the State have also left open the fissures within the community. It is early days to say whether or not these cracks will be reflected in the election outcome. How far the radical political groupings have any political strength to pose a serious challenge to the IUML remains to be seen in the election.
The agitation over the Kasturirangan report and its predecessor the Gadgil report, on the other hand, galvanised the Christian community into a strong force with strong bargaining power. That bargaining power, according to a senior Congress leader, has been used on the strength of a clear understanding that the Congress is not what it used to be ahead of the last two general elections.
Kerala Congress stand Some sections of the Kerala Congress leadership representing the largely Christian communities even made noises suggesting their willingness to jump the Modi band wagon, if a favourable situation arises. Kerala Congress (M) leader and United Democratic Front government Chief Whip P.C. George’s participation in a function organised under the aegis of the Sangh Parivar in Kottayam a few months ago has not gone unnoticed in political circles.
The lack of a political common cause for the minority communities is also a factor that the major mainstream political parties such as the Congress, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] will try to take advantage of. The CPI(M) has already started the move to appeal to the perceived concern of the Muslims about Mr. Modi becoming the next Prime Minister in a bid to win the Muslim votes from the UDF. The CPI(M) is also appealing to the perceived fears of the Christian community against the implementation of the Kasturirangan report. The CPI(M)’s hope is that any success in wooing the two communities that traditionally backed the UDF will stand it in good stead in the coming general election. What collective strategy the UDF will formulate to counter the CP(M) move to create erosion in the Congress-led coalition will be watched in the coming days.