Opposition Leader V.D. Satheesan challenges Jose K. Mani over ‘narcotic jihad’ controversy in Kerala

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan, KPCC president K. Sudhakaran, Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala during an UDF meeting on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

The ‘narcotic jihad’ controversy continued to ripple through Kerala politics and made its reverberations felt across the polity again on Thursday.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the onus was on Jose. K. Mani of the Kerala Congress (M), a recent LDF partner, to clarify whether he agreed with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's stance on narcotic jihad.

Mr. Satheesan's challenge to Mr. Mani came a day after Mr. Vijayan slammed Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangat for raising the spectre of a "non-existent" radical Islamist plot to corrupt Catholic non-Muslim youth by plying them with narcotic drugs.

The Chief Minister had urged the bishop to rectify the "incorrect" statement and said, somewhat ominously, that those who spread patently false and inherently divisive messages risked prosecution.

Electoral demographics

The KC(M) is closely allied with the Central Travancore Christian community, constituting Kerala's crucial electoral demographics. It is headquartered in Pala, and Mr. Mani had lost the constituency to Mani. C. Kappan of the UDF in the 2021 Assembly elections.

Speaking to reporters at the fag-end of a day-long UDF conclave here, Mr. Satheesan said he would not elaborate further on the subject. It was not the UDF's intention to exacerbate the divisive issue.

The UDF had held multiple-level discussions with Muslim and Christian community leaders to ease social tensions and rebuild trust.

In contrast, the government sat on the sidelines and watched hardliners and vested interests trade incendiary and divisive rhetoric on social media, he said.

It took Mr. Vijayan 14 days to respond to the issue despite its immense social ramification. The government repeatedly stonewalled the Opposition's demand for an all-party meeting. It had played second fiddle to the Sangh Parivar's divisive agenda, he said.

LDF stance

An almost simultaneous meeting of the LDF in the capital reportedly sidestepped the narcotic jihad controversy. Two coalition partners, the KC(M) the and Indian National League, had struck diametrically opposite positions on the issue.

Mr. Mani had skirted criticising the bishop. Instead, he had demanded an enquiry into the concerns raised by the prelate. In contrast, the INL required the metropolitan to withdraw the "hurtful" observation.

Briefing mediapersons later, LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan said Mr. Vijayan had articulated the government's stance on the issue. Any further statement or discussion on the topic was superfluous.

The BJP had earlier accused both the UDF and the LDF of kowtowing to Islamists for their vote bank.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 3:59:55 PM |

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