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Banatwala was League's national face
June 25, 2008 20:06 IST
G M Banatwala's death plunged the Muslim League's circles in Kerala [Images] into gloom as he was part and parcel of the politics in the state.
G M Banatwala, president of the League, died in Mumbai on Wednesday.
He represented the Ponnani parliamentary constituency in the IUML heartland of Malappuram in Kerala from 1977 to 1989 and after a break from 1996 to 2004.
A gifted parliamentarian and orator, Banatwala espoused the cause of Muslims in Parliament on crucial issues like the Shah Bano case, demolition of the Babri Masjid and minority rights, including the personal law.
Born in Mumbai, Banatwala was returned to Parliament with very high margins reflecting the trust the people in the North Kerala area dominated by Mappila Muslims reposed on him.
Banatwala was the national face of IUML, especially after Ibrahim Suleiman Sait left the League and floated Indian National League (INL) following differences with a section in the party over continuance of ties with the Congress after the Babri Masjid incident.
Despite constraints in speaking in Malayalam, he had been able to strike a chord with the common man as he was always on the forefront of taking up their problems, both in Parliament and outside.
Banatwala was one of the Muslim leaders who vociferously argued for implementation of the Sachar Committee report for social and educational support to the Muslim community.
IUML state president Panakkad Muhammadali Shihab Thangal, state general secretary P K Kunhalikitty and other leaders expressed sorrow at the passing away of Banatwala.
Black flags were put up in Muslim League offices across Kerala as the news of Bannatwala's death spread.
Banatwala, a teacher, scholar and educationist spoke straight from the heart. Though he never spoke in Malayalam in his Ponani constituency in Kerala, people listened to him with rapt attention when he spoke in English.
That this scholar who served one term in the Maharashtra Assembly and did not speak the language of the people in his constituency had not diluted his charisma.
Author of four books, Banatwala's interest included issues relating to law, parliamentary history and minorities.