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February 19,


The Rediff Election Interview/ Abdul Nassar Madani

'The BJP is running everywhere like a venomous snake after Sonia started campaigning'

Abdul Nassar Madani Six years ago, Abdul Nassar Madani was a Muslim fundamentalist storming Kerala's socio-political circles. Today, he is just another Muslim politician with a dwindling kitty of votes for sale at the hustings.

The People's Democratic Party he founded immediately after the Babri Nasjid demolition is a far cry from the Islamic Sewak Sangh, which he put together as a counter to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The ISS was banned by the Government of India due to its extremist postures. The PDP that followed started on a stormy note, joining hands with the Communist Party of India-Marxist and humbling the Congress in the Ottapalam Lok Sabha by-election.

In those days of emotional turmoil, Madani's voice against both the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League had many takers, even among the moderate Muslim sections. Many thought he was the man to end the IUML hegemony.

However, Madani parted ways with the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front when he realised it was not ready to reciprocate his support. The PDP then ploughed a lonely furrow. But Madani realised his party would not be able to make any mark in the bi-polar political setup of Kerala until it joins the coalition bandwagon. Thus, he put in place a backward class-dalit front. But the experiment did not last long in the face of electoral setbacks. Madani, who loved the limelight, sought to go back to the CPI-M fold. But the latter had different ideas. Madani claims that the CPI-M ditched him after it got some positive signals from the Muslim League for its support.

He then sought a shelter with the United Democratic Front, but despite the full backing from the Congress he could not make it, thanks to the stiff resistance from the Congress partner, the Muslim League. This does not, however, deter him from supporting the Congress in the present election. In an exclusive interview with D Jose, Madani explains the political compulsions that forced him to support the Congress and dwells on his transformation from firebrand fundamentalist to moderate politician:

What compelled you to support the Congress when your party is not part of the UDF fold?

It's like selecting between two dogs that are chasing you. One is mad and the other normal. We opted for the lesser evil. We consider the Bharatiya Janata Party as a mad dog. The PDP's primary objective is to prevent the BJP from coming to power at the Centre at any cost. We came to the conclusion that this can be achieved only by strengthening the Congress. The Congress should be supported to win as many seats as possible. Each seat is crucial at this juncture. The PDP decided to support the Congress after weighing these considerations carefully.

In that case, why didn't you support the United Front? It also claims to be in a position to stop the BJP march.

Supporting the UF means backing the CPI-M and its allies in Kerala. We have serious differences with the CPI-M. We consider it a facist force like the BJP. The difference may be in degree. The CPI-M is as anti-minorities as the BJP. They have no love for the Muslims or any other minorities. If the party was sincere to the Muslims, it should have fielded at least one Muslim candidate in a seat that could be won. It has not.

When I had discussed our party's support for the CPI-M with its leader, I had pleaded for fielding at least one common candidate who could pose a serious challenge to the ML. They have put up weak candidates who will lose. The party has done this fully knowing that they cannot win. Then where is their love for Muslims?

Had you tried for an alliance with the CPI-M?

I had several rounds of discussions with some senior CPI-M leaders. Initially they were very enthusiastic. I think our discussions broke down after the CPI-M got signals from the ML regarding covert support in north Kerala.

Why should the ML support the CPI-M when they are part of the Congress-led UDF?

The ML is not the party that it was earlier. It is a motley crowd led by self-seekers. The leaders are using the party and the community not only for furthering their interests but also to indulge in undesirable activities.

Are you referring to the allegations regarding the involvement of ML leader P K Kunhalikutty in the Kozhikode sex racket?

Exactly. I have enough evidence with me to prove his involvement in the scandal. I know Kunhalikutty personally. He will do this and more. But I don't see why the party should protect such a person. I had challenged the ML to organise an agitation seeking the arrest of all those involved. The party did not dare to issue even a statement against the scandal, let alone an agitation!

Do you mean to say there is an arrangement between the two parties?

There is a mutual arrangement between Kunhalikutty and Chief Minister E K Nayanar, whose son is also facing such an allegation in connection with another sex scandal. Kerala Congress leader T M Jacob had said he had evidence against the chief minister's son.

If you have evidence against Kunhalikutty why don't you produce it before a court of law?

I am not doing it due to religious reasons. We can't possibly do it. I have to respect religious sentiments.

Won't your support to the Congress tantamount to indirect support to the ML?

We are opposing the ML in both Manjeri and Ponnani where the party has fielded its candidates. While in one seat we are contesting ourselves, in the other seat we are supporting the Indian National League led by Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait.

Your approach to the Congress was also similar earlier. What prompted you to change that?

I told you our primary concern is the defeat of the BJP. We have no illusions the Congress will protect minority interests. But we have seen a distinct change in the attitude of the Congress towards the minorities after Narasimha Rao was replaced by Sitaram Kesri. The Congress has not only apologised for the demolition of the (Babri) mosque, but has also taken action against Rao. These are positive signs. We are not satisfied with that alone. We want the mosque to be reconstructed at the disputed site.

Do you think Sonia Gandhi will be able to protect the minorities if she comes to power?

We cannot tell anything about it now. Sonia is yet to prove her administrative abilities and statesmanship. We will watch how she is going ahead.

Do you think that Sonia has made any impact by her campaign?

She has certainly been able to stir up the electoral scene. There is a mild wave in favour of the Congress. This has made the BJP more poisonous. It is running everywhere like a venomous snake after Sonia started campaigning.

You started as a radical religious leader. Do you now regret your decision to jump into the political bandwagon?

I had founded the ISS to seek justice for Muslims. The issues that we raised then are still relevant. The ISS experiment failed because we could not ensure disciplined work. On the political plane, my attempt is to shape up a backward class-dalit front fit to fight for justice for the weaker sections. We cannot do it alone. The like-minded parties and organisations should come together. We are striving for it.

Will you have any alliance with the INL whom you are supporting in some constituencies?

We were from the beginning interested in associating with Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait. But he was under the illusion that he could find a better place in the company of the Communist parties. Fortunately he has realised his folly now. I think in future there could be more areas for co-operation between us.

But you yourself have been shifting your political stances frequently.

No political party can exist on a rigid stand. Parties are creations of the times. Each party is expected to respond to it. We had supported the LDF first when we found the Congress and the ML were on the side of those who abetted the Babri Masjid demolition. Now we are supporting the Congress, which has regretted its action. The question before us was whether to help the party which was directly responsible for the Masjid demolition or the party which has regretted its failure to protect it. Our choice was the Congress.

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