KOZHIKODE: Starting out as a student-member of a radical Islamic organisation, and then drifting towards a mainstream rightist party before shifting to Left politics representing its vibrant Muslim face, KT Jaleel’s political trajectory is curious.The Valanchery native did his pre-degree from Islahiya College run by Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) at Chennamangaloor, Kozhikode. He continued the kinship with JEI, becoming a leader of its student wing — the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), now a banned organisation — while pursuing degree at PSMO College, Thirurangady, in the 1980s. Jaleel contested the college union chairman poll as a SIMI candidate in 1988 but lost.
The following year, he was expelled from SIMI after a difference of opinion with the leadership during the college election. “Jaleel wanted to run for union chairman post again. SIMI’s plan was to field him as a UUC candidate, as there was winnability with there being two UUC posts. After expulsion, he contested as an independent to the chairman’s post but lost,” recalls N Shamsuddin, Mannarkkad MLA and IUML leader, Jaleel’s junior and a Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF) leader in college.
The next year, Jaleel joined MSF and became the college union chairman. Irrespective of politics, he attracted a large number of students in the college, thanks to his oratory skills and academic brilliance. “He was a powerful orator and a bright student,” says former PSMO College principal P M Alavikutty, who was a faculty when Jaleel was a student and later became his colleague.
Through MSF, Jaleel scaled the ladder of political success and became the state general secretary of the Muslim Youth League (MYL), the youth wing of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). It is learnt that the late Korambayil Mohammed Haji was his political mentor in IUML. Jaleel completed MPhil and earned a doctorate and joined his alma mater as lecturer with the History Department. By the time, he had come to be known as an academician. Jaleel’s relations with IUML strained when he had differences of opinion with the then leadership, especially P K Kunhalikutty.
“There were widespread allegations of fund misappropriation in IUML’s tsunami house construction programme, which Jaleel raised in IUML state meet. It snowballed into a high-profile slugfest and Kunhalikutty tried to shift him from Kerala politics. On the other hand, LDF was keen to use Jaleel in the IUML stronghold of Malappuram,” said an IUML leader.
SHIFT TOWARDS LEFT
In 2005, Jaleel was expelled from IUML and joined hands with LDF. P K Kunhalikutty was going through a tumultuous period because of the ice-cream parlour case and LDF could not find a better candidate than Jaleel to field against the IUML strongman as a Left-supported independent in the 2006 elections. He became a giant killer, defeating Kunhalikutty by 8,781 votes. He repeated the feat from Tavanur in 2011 and 2016. “Not ideology, but political careerism can be gauged from Jaleel’s profile,” says political observer and writer Hameed Chennamangaloor. “If he is led by ideology, why was he not a member of CPM or DYFI though he has been with LDF for 15 years? Such leaders switch to sides where they get better positions.”