Muslim League returns with a mixed bag

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 7. The high-power meeting between IUML leaders and the Congress(I) President, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi on Friday and the reaffirming statements by the former bring the curtains down on the political speculation about the second largest party in the UDF going to the Left.

Though the LDF convener, Mr. V. S. Achuthanandan, takes some credit for throwing cold water on (the) warming CPI(M)-IUML ties, the latter's reaffirmation of its loyalty to the UDF has conclusively grounded the CPI(M)'s pre-election habit of League baiting and creating confusion in the UDF.

The IUML leaders have returned home from their meeting with Ms. Sonia Gandhi with a mixed bag.

The Congress(I) leader's willingness to agree to some kind of close cooperation at the national level would partially satisfy the IUML leadership, though it falls short of its desire for a national alliance.

For some time now, the IUML has been trying to create an elbow room in national politics and fill up what it perceives a vacuum in Muslim politics.

The utterances of the IUML leaders at a meeting of its State and district presidents held prior to the Sonia meeting clearly revealed what they had in mind.

They pointed out to the threat minority communities face and the failure of big political parties to address their threat perceptions.

Their pleas to the Congress(I) governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to drop the legislation on curbing construction of mosques, and for similar joint action in Uttar Pradesh are in pursuance of the party's national ambitions.

The meeting also wanted the Congress(I) to take the initiative to float a secular democratic front to fight the BJP.

It is significant that the Congress(I) agreed to a coordination of sorts with the IUML both in Parliament and in other States, without giving anything away on broadbasing the Kerala alliance in other States.

But in relation to State politics, the IUML leadership appears to have painted itself into a corner. With the doors on a Left alliance firmly closed, it could find its bargaining power considerably reduced by political circumstances.

Even though the Congress(I) high command gave assurances that all pending issues would be settled, it would find it difficult to wrest additional concessions.

Even though the Congress(I) and the IUML leaders did not specify the problems in the UDF, it is clear that the IUML has doubts about the Congress(I)'s organisational capacity to lead the UDF.

In the light of the Sonia assurance, the Congress(I) expects the IUML to plunge into the current campaign against the LDF, including boycott of the Nayanar Government's fourth anniversary.

At its May 10 meeting, the UDF High-Power Committee would review the steps taken to end illegal alliances in local bodies, and it is hoped that it would satisfy the IUML and other UDF partners.

According to a school of thought, the IUML should bestow more attention to addressing threats from Muslim outfits like the NDF now that the curtains have come down on the speculations about its quitting the UDF.

Instead of taking on the Congress(I) as an adversary, the IUML cannot be complacent about the perceived growth of the NDF influence among the youth and the possibilities of rival political parties encouraging these forces to whittle down the IUML's influence.

On a different plain, the IUML's affirmation to stick to the UDF is a positive sign as it comes in a week which witnessed the possibilities of the RSP(B) joining the UDF, followed by another, a Janata Dal splinter group.

For the Congress(I), it comes as a morale booster in its fight against the CPI(M) and its alleged wayward political ways.