Modi’s ‘communal’ remarks land Kerala BJP in trouble
02 Apr 2019
Narendra Modi speaks to the press in New Delhi.
AM Abdussalam / Agencies
KOZHIKODE: A remark by Prime Minister Narendra Modi lamenting the decision of Congress president Rahul Gandhi to contest from Muslim dominated Wayanad constituency after Amethi in Uttar Pradesh that allegedly sought to create a clear Hindu-Muslim divide in the country has landed Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in trouble.
BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai was quick to offer a more acceptable interpretation to PM’s comments. According to him, the comments were not targeted against Muslim community, but Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which boasts of sizeable support base in Wayanad.
“There is a distinction between Muslims and Muslim League. We have nothing against our Muslim brethren. We need their votes too. In fact, in 2004 we had won in a place like Lakshadweep Islands that had nearly 98 per cent Muslims,” Pillai told media persons.
In 2004, P Pookunhi Koya who contested on BJP ticket had emerged giant-killer by defeating PM Sayeed, by a slender margin of 71 votes. Sayeed of Congress had won the seat right from the first election held in 1967. The prime minister, while addressing an election rally at Wardha in Maharashtra on April 1, said the Congress was so afraid of a Hindu backlash that Rahul Gandhi had gone to “contest from a seat where the minority is majority”, an allusion to the strong presence of Muslim community in Wayanad parliamentary constituency.
According to Pillai, the BJP was criticising Rahul Gandhi for his over-dependence on Indian Union Muslim League. “There is no hope for Rahul in Amethi this time. Congress has not won a single Assembly constituency within Amethi during the 2017 polls. Desperate for a safe seat, he has come to Wayanad. That he had to seek refuge in the hands of the Muslim League shows his party’s utter helplessness. Any child will tell you that the Muslim League is the most dominant party in Wayanad,” Pillai said.
BJP still considers the IUML the offshoot of All India Muslim League that was formed in 1906 and was led by Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Pillai, who maintains a good rapport with Muslim leaders in Kerala, stopped short of backing this stand but shifted the blame to Congress. “This was a party that was described as a ‘dead horse’ by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru had even asked League leaders to remove their cap while entering the parliament. Why do you think Indira Gandhi refused to give them a cabinet post though they were technically allies,” Pillai asked.
The BJP leader hinted that the Muslim League still held secessionist tendencies deep within. The first chapter of the League’s official history is titled Dhakayile Sooryodayam (The Sunrise in Dhaka), he said. “The sunrise they have referred to is the formation of the All India Muslim League in Dhaka in 1906,” Pillai said.
National People’s Party (NPP) President Conrad Sangma on Tuesday stressed on the need for a regional parties’ combine to take on national level political parties.
“The national parties will always have a national outlook, but one must realise the regional differences of the states and that is the reason why today it is very important that the regional forces join hands,” he said.
Sangma referred to the untapped potential of the Northeast and said, “It is time we realise that our future lies in our hands, we cannot let our future be controlled by somebody else or by people sitting in Delhi who may not understand of our needs.” Addressing a rally here, the Meghalaya Chief Minister said that there were times when national parties received support from people in the states, but they did not respect the people’s sentiments.
“National parties like the Congress talked about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, but a Congress MP from Assam supported the Bill and wrote a letter congratulating Modi government for bringing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” he said.
Sangma was addressing the rally to seek support for Jemino Mawthoh, the United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate from Shillong. Mawthoh is the consensus candidate of the ruling NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government.
He is pitted against outgoing Congress MP Vincent H. Pala, BJP candidate Sanbor Shullai and three Independents — T.H.S. Bonney, Samuel Hashah and Romeo Phira Rani.