The Kerala Story screenings will affect votes, says BJP’s lone Muslim candidate

Abdul Salam spoke to TNM about the difficulties in contesting as a BJP candidate in a Muslim-dominated constituency.
Dr M Abdul Salam
Dr M Abdul SalamFacebook
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Screening Sudipto Sen’s propaganda film The Kerala Story in the state will distance Muslims from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the saffron party's Malappuram candidate Dr M Abdul Salam. He is the lone Muslim candidate in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He said the screening of The Kerala Story, especially during the election season, will affect his vote share, as the majority of votes from the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency are from the Muslim community. 

On Sunday, April 14, he spoke to TNM about the difficulties in contesting as a BJP candidate in a Muslim-dominated constituency.

“I have been allotted a district where 70% of the population is Muslim. I am in a constituency where the BJP had only 5% vote share in the last election. Now you can very well imagine the amount of heat I feel in this constituency. If such a controversy [about The Kerala Story] erupts here in Malappuram, you can imagine the amount of hate that can generate. So as a Muslim candidate of Malappuram, I feel an aggravated hostility from my community,” he told TNM.

The Kerala Story has been controversial from the beginning of its announcement. It misrepresents Kerala and propagates misleading content about Muslim communities in Kerala. The film was recently picked for telecast by India’s state-owned public television broadcaster Doordarshan. Several politicians including the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan and leader of Opposition VD Satheesan criticised the film and it's screening.

Dr M Abdul Salam clarified that this is not the party's stand, and that he is merely expressing his personal opinion. “It is my personal opinion, not the party's opinion. I believe that this is not the ideal time to evoke such hostility among the main vote bank. I don’t want to be labelled as an enemy of Muslims in a constituency where 70% Muslims form the vote bank,” he said.

Dr M Abdul Salam during his campaign
Dr M Abdul Salam during his campaignFacebook

Talking about the film The Kerala Story, he said he hasn't watched the film and he is not taking either a positive or negative stand about the content of the film. “It is a story. The story can be based on reality or based on fiction. So the confusion is very much there, because you are not aware of the reality of the story, whether it is true or fictional,” he said, adding, "I have not seen The Kerala Story and I don’t want to propagate any module that evokes communal furies, splitting up people, creating hostility or division. I want to propagate the narrative that can cultivate harmony and promote oneness. Even if you are very much in favour of The Kerala Story, I think the election is not the right time to screen it,” he added.

He also shared his views on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the BJP’s election manifesto to promise to implement it. “Now the CAA rules have been notified. That has also created a lot of confusion and fury among the minority. But if you analyse the Act closely, you will realise that it doesn't not force people's exiled. It is for admitting eligible people. The confusion was created by the opposition. We are in the process of removing the confusion,” he said, continuing, "I have not contradicted the opinion of anybody, I have just voiced my personal opinion.”

While talking to The News Indian Express, Abdul Salam expressed his disappointment over the untrained team of that is part of his election campaign. He said the current campaign would not be enough to gain votes and the BJP camp in Malappuram shies away from approaching non-BJP Muslims and Hindus.

He also responded to the controversy regarding him being denied permission to accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his road show in Palakkad on March 19. On that day, Abdul Salam had already given his name and other details to accompany the PM in the vehicle. However, he was denied entry and the BJP claimed that they did not get the Special Protection Group’s (SPG) permission to carry more than four people in the vehicle. 

This became a controversy in the state and Abdul Salam himself said he did not have any complaints. However, talking to TNIE, he said that the BJP state leadership could have avoided such incidents, even while defending the party. 

“I do not have any complaints for not being able to get into the vehicle, which had more people. I introduced myself to PM Modi as the Malappuram candidate and he said good luck. Then I invited him to Malappuram,” he had told Media One then.

Reacting to the incident, BJP's Palakkad district president, KM Haridas had told TNM that controversy was made up. “It is a story made up by the media and it has nothing to do with reality. The controversies were created because it was a big event with a huge number of people participating. The roadshow was conducted in Palakkad district and the Lok Sabha candidates from Palakkad district entered the vehicle. Some areas like Thrithala from Palakkad come under the Ponnani constituency, that’s why the candidate from Ponnani joined in the roadshow,” he added.  

Abdul Salam, the former vice chancellor of Calicut University, joined the BJP in 2019. In the 2021 Kerala Assembly election, he contested from the Tirur constituency but lost to Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) Kurukkoli Moideen.

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