Sunday, April 3, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Kerala: A spirited fightback from the margins

Kerala: A spirited fightback from the margins

Sabloo Thomas
Express News Service
First Published : 02 Apr 2011 03:36:31 AM IST
Last Updated : 02 Apr 2011 01:35:15 PM IST

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: For decades, dalits in Kerala had been a trusted
vote bank of the Communists. Things began to change by the end of the
previous century when the dalits began demanding their pie in power in
lieu of the votes cast.

From the 1958 EMS Ministry, dalits had a representation in the
government. A dalit minister was included in the Cabinet by both the
LDF and the UDF. But there was no growth in the representation or the
power enjoyed by the dalits over these years.

Reserved constituencies continued to be the only options for dalits to
enter the Assembly. In 2006, the CPM fielded a dalit candidate in the
general constituency. But C K P Padmanabhan, who won with a thumping
majority from Talimparamba, was denied ticket this time.

It is the Muslim League which sprang a surprise this time. It fielded
a dalit, U C Raman, in the Kunnanmangalam general constituency. But
none of these gimmicks seem to have impressed the dalit voters in

For the last few years, the search of the dalit voter for his identity
has been intensified and the Assembly election is just another
occasion to assert his existence.

If Muthanga riots and the police firing that killed one tribal was a
major campaign issue in 2006, the current election does not have such
a posterissue. The split in KPMS and the emergence of the Dalit Human
Rights Movement and the Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samithi are the major
incidents that happened in the last five years.

The split in the Kerala Pulayar Mahasabha (KPMS), one of the largest
dalit organisations, was an aftermath of a section openly aligning
with the UDF. Following the decision by the leadership to support
Congress in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, a few leaders of the
organisation, including V Sasi, who is now contesting the elections as
the CPI candidate from the Chirayankeezhu constituency, had left the

Later, the KPMS had officially split following the expulsion of
Punnala Sreekumar, who was the then general secretary, from the
organisation. Punnala was expelled following his proUDF stand which
was unacceptable to others in the leadership. Traditionally, the KPMS
has been a strong supporter of the Left.

Punnala attempted a 360 degree and had to pay the price.

But the Punnala faction of the KPMS also withdrew its unconditional
support to the UDF following differences of opinion over the selection
of candidate in Mavelikkara. The Congress had given seats to KPMS
nominees in Kunathoor and Vaikom but failed to give a seat to their
nominee in Mavelikkara. This has made them declare only a conditional
support to the UDF.

Punnala Sreekumar told Express that the KPMS would decide on its stand
in each constituency depending on the candidate. According to
Thuravoor Suresh, the organising secretary of the other faction, KPMS
would support candidates who have supported them.

"We would support those candidates who have promised to support our
causes,'' he said.

Rasthriya Mahasabha, the political wing of the Adivasi Mahasabha, is
also not giving a blanket support to any front. Adivasi Mahasabha
general secretary M Geethanandan said it had not fielded any candidate
for elections.

In places where other Adivasi organisations have fielded their
candidates, the Sabha will support them. ''By and large, in other
constituencies we will be supporting UDF candidates. However, this
does not apply to Wayanad, where UDF is much antiAdivasi as LDF,'' he

Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyuktha Vedi, which has been in the forefront
of the land agitation against the LDF in places including Chengara,
has also not finalised its political stand for the elections.

Vimochana Vedi president Laha Gopalan said its political stand will be
decided by April 10. But it is learnt that the Vedi support will be
for the UDF. Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM), which is in the news
for the Varkala murder, has decided to field candidates to 28 seats
spread across seven districts. DHRM South Kerala Organiser Varkala Das
said the stand in other constituencies would be taken after assessing
the political situation in each place.

Mayawati's BSP, which is boasting of a significant growth in the
state, has fielded 124 candidates this time. Mayawati herself will
reach here for campaign. But indications are that they are not going
to improve their vote share. Why the dalit voter, who is fed up with
Congress and CPM, is not turning to the BSP still remains an
unanswered question.

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