Riding atop an open jeep, accompanied by scores of motorbikes, each carrying three or four young, flag-carrying CPI (M) workers, MB Faisal descends upon Nooradipalam, not far from Malappuram town. The penultimate day of campaigning for the Malappuram bye-election sees hectic activity from the Left Democratic Front’s youthful candidate.
Facing the Herculean task of defeating IUML heavyweight PK Kunhalikutty, a long-time legislator and former Industries Minister, Faisal’s campaign has taken the form of a strong anti-fascist call. The need of the hour is to strengthen secular forces against fascist tendencies, he repeats again and again. Carefully avoided amidst these strident calls are any mentions of sensitive issues that the ruling LDF faces within the state.
Talking to The News Minute, Faisal sounds optimistic about his victory. “It will be with clear majority,’ he declares. A surprising declaration, since Malappuram has consistently stood with the Indian Union Muslim League, a coalition partner of the UDF. The constituency has rarely backed the Left, and never since the constituency was renamed after delimitation in 2008.
The Muslim community has always been a strong vote base for the IUML, a party that has always strongly advocated minority interests. But, says Faisal, this strong support is also a positive factor for him, as the strength of the Left lies in its nature as a force that can resist communalism. “The lives of the Dalits, the minorities and backward communities are under threat. The Left is with them, people will recognise this and vote for us,” declares Faisal. The attacks that the LDF government has come under, especially for its poor handling of the death of Nehru College student Jishnu Pranoy, will not determine the verdict of Wednesday’s bye-election, Faisal asserts confidently.Indeed, Faisal is appreciative of the government’s handling of the issue, despite the widespread criticism of the police for forcibly dragging away Jishnu’s parents from a protest outside the Thiruvananthapuram DGP’s office. The government’s intervention in the case, he says, has been “creative and positive”.
But he’s quick to avoid any questions on statements by LDF leaders like Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and minister MM Mani against Jishnu’s mother Mahija during the campaign. “I haven’t noticed their statements,” he says. He’s also eager to shift the conversation back to national issues. “It’s an election to Parliament. Therefore, why should we talk about issues which are not of national importance? The active discussion is national politics. The extreme right-wing attitude of the BJP, their fascist and communalist agenda, which they propagate extensively, are a threat to the secularist base of the country. We have to resist it; the Left is the sole force which is capable of that,” Faisal asserts.
As for the BJP’s allegation that Faisal’s candidature is the result of a secret agreement between the Chief Minister and the UDF to facilitate Kunhalikutty’s victory, Faisal is plainly contemptuous, “Coming here, can’t you realise that the allegation was a joke. More than 11 ministers and scores of Left legislators have campaigned for me. In politics allegations and controversies are natural. That won’t affect our chances. The victory is 200% sure.”