Kerala in a League of Its Own
The growing clout of the Muslim League in the UDF leads to mobilisation of Hindu and Christian groups
The growing clout of the Muslim League in the UDF government leads to mobilisation of Hindu and Christian groups.
Panakkad is an obscure village deep in the bowels of Malappuram, Kerala’s only Muslim- majority district. In September, the state government will showcase 22 proposed projects here, totalling an investment of Rs 2,000 crore, at a global investors’ meet in Kochi. With reason. Panakkad is the home turf of the Kodappanakkal family of Sayyid Shihab Thangals, the most prominent spiritual leaders of Kerala’s Muslims since the 1980s. Traditionally, the eldest Thangal becomes president of the Muslim League, which has propped up the United Democratic Front ( UDF) since it came to power in May 2011 in the state with a slender six- seat majority.
The League is UDF’S second largest constituent with 20 seats, and exercises almost total control over Kerala’s Muslims, the state’s second largest community with 25 per cent of the population. Empowered by the com- munity’s economic and demographic growth, the League has grown steadily in strength. Muslims are the largest beneficiaries of foreign remittances, that totalled Rs 50,000 crore in 2011 according to a study by Thiruvananthapuram- based Centre for Development Studies, sent by its two- millionstrong diaspora in the Gulf. Not just that. According to the 2001 Census, while Hindu and Christian populations showed a decline, by 1.48 per cent and 0.32 per cent respectively, the Muslim population went up by 1.70 per cent.
Consequently, the League has wrested several privileges from the present government: Five Cabinet berths, free land in the Calicut University campus, special privileges for Muslim management schools, and Muslims recruited to raise awareness about littleknown minority scholarships in the community. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has faced much flak from all around— including his own party— for succumbing to the League’s pressures. In May, Aryadan Muhammed, the