CPI-M’s Maudany ties cost it dear in Kerala: Vayalar Ravi (Interview)

May 26th, 2009 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Biju T.G.
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) made a “big mistake” by contesting the elections jointly with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of controversial Muslim cleric Abdul Nassir Maudany in Kerala, says senior Congress leader and union minister Vayalar Ravi.

“The people of Kerala, particularly Muslims, rejected their unholy alliance. See the margin of the Muslim League candidates in Malappuram and Ponnani, where the CPI-M tried to defeat them with the support of Maudany,” Ravi, who was sworn in a cabinet minister Friday, told IANS in an interview.

He said: “Muslim League leaders E. Ahamed and E.T. Mohammed Basheer have together got 200,000 margin in the two constituencies. It proved that the CPI-M’s move was wrong and they paid a heavy price for that.”

While Ahamed won from Malappuram with a margin of over 115,000 against CPI-M’s sitting MP T.K. Hamza, Basheer won by more than 82,000 votes in Ponnani against Hussain Randathany supported by Maudany. The Muslim League is a key ally of the Congress in Kerala.

Maudany was allegedly involved in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts but was acquitted after nine years in jail.

Ravi, who emerged as a Congress leader at the national level by fighting the communists in Kerala from his young days, said the “minorities, Muslims as well as Christians, have lost their trust in the Left parties in the state.”

“The communist government made moves to take control of the Catholic Church and its assets. They declared that they would implement the recommendations by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission.”

The commission had recommended the setting up of a trust that would also have government representation to administer the assets of the Catholic Church and the prestigious educational institutions. Both are managed by the Catholic Diocese. The Church had openly campaigned against candidates of the Left-led coalition.

Ravi said the Catholic Church pushed the panic button fearing that if the recommendations were implemented, “they would lose their control over the church and their institutions. So, the angry Christian community campaigned against the Left candidates and voted against them.”

“In simple words, the minorities lost trust in the Left and the LDF (Left Democratic Front) government in the state. It reflected in the election results,” said the 72-year-old politician.

The Congress-led UDF won 16 of Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha seats, leaving the CPI-M with just four.

Ravi said he had no differences with his cabinet colleague, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is also from Kerala.

“We have good relations. We are neighbours (in Kerala). The distance between my home and Antony’s residence is just half a kilometre, he said.

Ravi’s home in Vayalar village borders Antony’s Cherthala. “I just need to cross a canal to reach his home,” said Ravi, who became president of the Kerala Students’ Union (KSU) ahead of Antony. KSU is the students’ wing of the Congress party in the state.

He believes the cabinet berth is a reward for his performance as the Overseas Indian Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the previous government.

“I worked round the clock to make overseas Indian affairs an important ministry.

Firstly, I cleaned up the ministry by ending exploitation of workers by the private recruiting agencies and taking action against corrupt officials,” he claimed.

“The government entered into several labour agreements to ensure the safety of Indian workers in other countries, particularly in the Gulf,” said Ravi, who is also a trade union leader.

He said his experience as a trade union leader also helped him in his job as parliamentary affairs minister.

It came in handy when the Left parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government in July 2008 during the trust vote in parliament over the India-US civil nuclear deal.

“I am a trade union leader. That experience helped me to keep the MPs in good humour during that crisis,” Ravi said.

(Biju T.G. can be contacted at biju.t@ians.in)

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