By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANNTHAPURAM: A flaming row has erupted over CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s remark that the minorities are being sidelined by the Congress.
What stirred the hornet’s nest was Kodiyeri’s strongly-worded statement that the grand old party was sidelining minorities following Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Jaipur advocating the establishment of what he called the rule of Hindus in the country after unseating the “Hindutva” Government at the Centre. Kodiyeri turned a scathing tongue against the Gandhi scion by saying that the latter was speaking the language of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) boss Mohan Bhagwat.
In support of his argument, Kodiyeri said even senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid and K V Thomas were being sidelined in line with the Congress’s new policy. The rebuff to these leaders had triggered a heated discussion within the Congress itself, the CPI(M) state secretary pointed out. Kodiyeri then trained his guns on the state leadership of the Congress. He rubbed it in by saying that when K Karunakaran became chief minister in 1982, A L Jacob was made the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee(KPCC) president. Likewise, when A K Antony became the CM, K. Muraleedharan was elected KPCC President. Again, when Oommen Chandy took over as chief minister, Mullappally Ramachandran was appointed as the PCC chief. That convention has since been thrown to the winds, Kodiyeri alleged, and wanted to know the reasons for the U-turn.
To the acute embarrassment of the Congress, Kodiyeri twisted the knife in the wound by asking the party as to why it has refrained from opposing what Rahul had said. The deafening silence vindicates the CPI(M)’s oft-repeated allegation that the Congress was hand in glove with the BJP-RSS combine. While the BJP says that India is a nation of Hindus, Rahul Gandhi says it is the country of Hindus! That is the only difference between the BJP and the Congress, Kodiyeri averred.
Stung by the criticism, Leader of the opposition and senior Congress leader V D Satheesan accused Kodiyeri of whipping up communalism aimed at dividing the society. Satheesan said the Kodiyeri outburst was an attempt to divert attention from the Opposition’s protest against the controversy surrounding the reappointment of Kannur Vice Chancellor in blatant violation of all rules. Kodiyeri should look in the mirror and see how many minority leaders had been at the helm of CPI(M) leadership.
Satheesan has deftly lobbed the ball into the CPI(M)’s court with his remark that the CPI(M) is itself is guilty of what it is accusing the Congress of doing. Before attacking the Congress, the Chief Minister should have a close look at the party’s leadership. How many minority community leaders are there at the CPI(M) helm. That was the question posed by Satheesan. Satheesan also sought to knock the stuffing out of the CPI(M) criticism by claiming that the ruling party was scaled of the spectacular comeback being staged by the Congress under the leadership of K. Sudhakaran. It was the fear of being ousted from power that is forcing the CPI(M) to make the kind of remarks it is making at present, Satheesan said.
It is clear that Kodiyeri’s was not an innocuous off-the –cuff remark. On an earlier occasion Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, had declared inaugurating the Thiruvananthapuram district conference of the CPI(M), that the Congress and the BJP were on the same page. Rahul Gandhi, Pinarayi said, was trying to outdo the BJP by beating the Hindutva drum. In this connection, he contended that it was not a coincidence that a host of Congress leaders have made a beeline to the BJP. Both the Congress and the BJP are birds of the same feather, Vijayan thundered. That Kodiyeri has chosen to repeat what Pinarayi said earlier shows that the CPI(M) has decided to hit the Congress where it hurts the most. No wonder, the Kodiyeri criticism has sparked a fierce debate within the Congress itself.
It may be mentioned that the minority communities, both the Muslims and Christians, are disillusioned with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Their displeasure reflected in a big way in the spectacular victory the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front(LDF) scored in the assembly elections. A large section of the Christian community and a big slice of Muslims have already gravitated to the LDF. This has created panic in the UDF camp. The sidelining of minorities from leadership positions in the UDF would only deepen the disillusionment of the minorities resulting a fresh exodus from that front. The Congress leaders are aware of this possibility. That explains the nervous response to the Kodiyeri critique. No doubt the CPI(M) has succeeded in exploiting the Achilles heel of the Congress. Any further desertion of the Congress by the minorities will sound the death knell of the Congress-led UDF in the State. The Congress leaders have been forewarned. The time for action is now. Tomorrow could be too late. (IPA Service)