The 2004 elections saw IUML lose its stronghold seat of Manjeri to the CPI(M), as a section of the Malabari Moplah community expressed discontent with the Congress’s perceived lack of criticism of the West during the second Gulf War. In response, the Congress adopted rigid secularism, emphasising minority appeasement.
Now, a similar sentiment is brewing in Kerala, potentially impacting the national political landscape. The Marxists’ overtures towards the Muslim League have been met with denials, yet the possibility of a shift is being closely watched for several reasons.
Firstly, the Marxists and the Muslim League have been allies in the past, making the idea of collaboration plausible. Secondly, given the Marxists’ control over the Christian vote, following the defection of Jose K Mani’s Kerala Congress from the Congress coalition in 2020, any shift of Muslim League votes could make the Marxists formidable in Kerala.
Thirdly, a Muslim League-Marxist alliance could position the Marxists as protectors of minorities, not only in Kerala but potentially on a national scale, reviving Marxism’s influence. Fourthly, the Congress, already facing challenges, would be further weakened in Kerala, impacting its national standing.
The flux, even if it materialises, strengthens the negotiating power of both the Marxists and the Muslim League in seat-sharing talks. Talks are already underway about a potential third seat, possibly Kasargod, for the Muslim League.
This potential alliance poses a dilemma for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who won in Wayanad in 2019 with Muslim League support. In the midst of this uncertainty, the Marxists gain leverage in negotiations with the Congress.
The current Thangal Sahib of the Panakkad family, representing the IUML, appears to struggle in managing internal tensions. Recent events, such as an IUML MLA appointed to the Kerala Bank board, have further exposed rifts within the party.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party’s role in capitalising on these developments remains uncertain, the growing sentiment among the Muslim community is that the Congress is losing its ability to represent their interests effectively. This sentiment, if not addressed, could spread to other states where the Congress relies on Muslim loyalty.
In the realm of identity politics, the Congress finds itself navigating a double-edged sword, where the very communities it seeks to represent may turn away if their interests are perceived to be neglected.