20070811

LEFT FINDS MUSLIM MASCOT IN KERALA


Madani Returns

K A Shaji / Thiruvananthapuram



The faction-ridden Left in Kerala has won a coup of sorts by winning the confidence of Abdul Nasser Madani, the radical cleric who has returned from a nine-year stint in jail wearing a martyr’s halo after being acquitted in the Coimbatore blasts case. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest constituent in the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) as well as a part of the upa government in New Delhi, is smelling trouble and Union Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahmed, was forced to relinquish the post of IUML state secretary within a few hours of the court acquitting Madani. Firebrand leader PK Kunhalikutty, who was Madani’s chief rival nine years ago when there was a mass exodus of IUML men to Madani’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has been reinstated in that post. Kunhalikutty had to resign as state secretary last year following the party’s poor performance in the Assembly poll and a sex scandal involving him.

Madani’s endorsement of the Left has shocked almost all Muslim outfits. While no UDF leader was invited to speak at thereception accorded to Madani at the Sankhumukham beach in Thiruvananthapuram a day after his release, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Education Minister MA Baby were there from the CPM. The Revolutionary Socialist Party’s Water Resources Minister NK Premachandran was the other prominent Left leader at the function. On his part, Madani showered lavish praises on not only Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan but also on his bĂȘte noire Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM state secretary. Baby’s presence also assumes significance as several Muslim outfits including the Muslim Educational Society have expressed reservations over his educational policies. The UDF’s campaign of accusing then chief minister and late CPM Politburo member EK Nayanar of being responsible for Madani’s arrest also failed to yield the desired result. In fact, Madani praised the ldf for taking good care of his health while in jail.

Talking to TEHELKA at the reception venue, Madani said it was unlikely that he would fall back on his Islamic Sevak Sangh (ISS) days, a body he founded as an Islamic version of the rss and which was later banned. Instead, he was keen to project his pdp as a party whose main plank was the unity of minorities, Dalits and backward classes. “I would try my best to set up a fund to help those affected by epidemics. There are several other social welfare schemes in my mind. Yet another agenda is reviving my party, which is in a shambles now,’’ he said.

The response of the IUML was a guarded one and it made it clear that political differences with Madani still exist though it welcomes the court verdict. Though there were reports that Kunhalikutty had called on Mahdani after his release, the IUML denied it. The militant National Democratic Front (NDF) is also watching the developments closely. It had actively campaigned for Madani’s release and was instrumental in forming a body to provide him legal assistance. But there is a concern in the organisation that Madani might outwit the NDF and invade its cadre base. The NDF, which is accused by the police of fomenting communal tension across the state, is happy to associate with the revived pdp and strike a “no-poaching pact” with it.

Madani had emerged a key figure in the 2001 and 2006 Assembly elections, with debates revolving around him. In 2001, he backed the Congress-led UDF. At that time, the CPM mouthpiece People’s Democracy accused the Congress of joining hands with “an extremist Muslim organisation’’. But the UDF romped home in style.

Madani claims he is a changed man now. During the 90s, he was a charismatic rabble-rouser known for communally charged speeches. He lost the lower half of his leg in a bomb explosion at his office in 1992. “No more bodyguards and no more such speeches. Life in jail for nine years has changed me and my perspectives a lot,’’ he says.

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