Earlier this week, when the CPM boss in Kerala Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Congress in the state has sidelined its minority leaders, even party insiders viewed it as a slip of tongue. But he repeated the allegation the next day and expanded it to the national level by asking why Ghulam Nabi Azad and Salman Khurshid have been sidelined by the Congress. Far from being a lapsus linguae, Kodiyeri’s blatantly communal statement now seemed like a canny political strategy ahead of the party’s crucial state conference scheduled in Kochi next month.
And it should be viewed in the backdrop of Kerala’s mixed demography where minority communities form 45% of the population. Though CPM enjoys considerable support among the minorities and won the 2016 and 2021 Assembly elections with the overwhelming backing of Christian and Muslim voters, only 10% of its 5.2 lakh members are from minority communities. Kerala’s minorities had traditionally aligned with the Congress-led UDF where the presence of Kerala Congress factions and Muslim League provided them additional representation in power.
The suggestion that the Congress has drifted away from minorities is a ploy to permanently attract its traditional vote base to the Left camp. Kodiyeri, who is eying another term as CPM state secretary, must have felt the triennial party conference season is the ideal occasion for a move that could earn him additional brownie points for expanding the party’s voter base.
Not too long ago, when Oommen Chandy was the chief minister, Kodiyeri had accused the then ruling UDF of being led by a caucus of the then CM and Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty—a veiled allegation that majority Hindus didn’t have any role in governance. He now seems to have taken an opportunistic U-turn. Ironically, the CPM is yet to make a minority leader either the state secretary or the chief minister. The CPM-led government has made Kerala’s development its guiding motto. Triggering communal passions will only undermine the progressive politics that the party preaches. As a society that takes pride in its secular credentials, the people of Kerala will easily see through the agenda. If the party secretary doesn’t understand this, other senior leaders should intervene and convince him about the folly.