The ruling Left front in Kerala is eyeing to cash in on the rift within the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) over the minority students scholarship issue.
In the latest controversy, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has found an opportunity to rekindle the political campaign that it is the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) that calls the shots in the Congress-led UDF.
The LDF is confident that no beneficiary will be left out with the new ratio it has formulated for distributing the scholarships. The CPM, which heads the government, believes that it would be a challenging task for the UDF to prove the IUML's apprehensions about the new ratio. The UDF's campaign against the government's stance will be exposed with all the eligible applicants getting the scholarship they deserve, the CPM believes.
The rift within the UDF over the revised ratio for minority scholarships came out with the IUML slamming the new forumula even as the Congress 'partially' welcomed it.
CPM sources cited three points that would help them turn the current controversy in favour of the Left front. One, the campaign that KPCC president K Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition V D satheesan were falling in line with the IUML's stance would weaken the opposition, especially the Congress. Two, the controversy will cause further erosion in the the Christian community from the Congress. Three, the UDF will fail to point out even a single applicant denied of the scholarship benefit.
The difference of opinion between the Kerala Congress Joseph faction and the IUML will also weaken the opposition, the CPM calculates. The Kerala Congress, which predominantly enjoys the support of Christians, has welcomed the new ratio.
Congress bans public remarks
The UDF, meanwhile, has initiated talks to make a quick consensus among its constituents over the issue. State Congress chief K Sudhakaran as started consulting senior leaders of his party as well as the UDF allies.
The Congress has banned public statements by party leaders over the matter. Party spokespersons and other leaders have been asked not to participate in TV debates on the issue until the front finalises its stance.
Differences cropped up in the UDF over the LDF government's decision to restructure the minority student scholarship ratio for Muslims and backward Christians in the state as per the 2011 population census.
Satheesan, on Saturday initially welcomed the state government decision, saying it was taken considering the opposition demand that no community should suffer any loss while implementing the new scheme.
The Congress leader, however, was forced to issue a clarification few hours later after IUML protested saying the Muslim community suffered a huge loss due to the state Cabinet's decision.
The state government on Thursday decided to restructure the minority student scholarship ratio after the Kerala High Court quashed the 2015 state government order providing scholarships in 80:20 ratio to Muslims and Latin Christians and Converted Christians, saying it was "legally unsustainable."
"The scholarship ratio will be restructured in such a manner that no community will be denied the benefit," the government has said.
In his first statement to the media on Saturday, Satheesan welcomed the decision, saying the main demand of the UDF was not to reduce the number of scholarships being provided to the students (belonging to Muslim community).
The UDF had also demanded that scholarships be given to other minority communities, he said, adding no community suffered any loss due to the government decision.
Following the protest by Muslim League leaders, Satheesan met the media again and alleged that the state government did not accept the UDF formula completely.
Clarifying his stand, Satheesan said his statement was misinterpreted and what he said was that the government only accepted the formula partially.
He said the government should also address the grievances of the Muslim League and added that the UDF will discuss the matter.
Top IUML leaders including Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal, P K Kunhalikutty, E T Muhammed Basheer and KPA Majeed came out openly against the state government, alleging that Muslim community lost an exclusive scheme formulated based on the Sachar Committee recommendation due to the government decision.
The differences within the UDF over the issue have come as a blessing in disguise for the ruling CPM-led LDF which was anticipating a huge campaign by Muslim League, targeting its votebase in the Muslim community.
Attacking the IUML, CPM acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan alleged the League leaders were trying to create division in the society.
As per the census, the state has a minority population of 26.56 per cent of Muslims, 18.38 per cent of Christians, 0.01 per cent Buddhists, 0.01 per cent Jain community and 0.01 per cent Sikh population.
"A sum of Rs 23.51 crore is required for distributing scholarships and the cabinet meeting decided to sanction a non-budgetary allocation of Rs 6.2 crore," the government has said.
The high court had directed the Left government to pass appropriate orders, providing merit-cum-means scholarship to members of the notified minority communities within the state equally and in accordance with the latest population census available with the State Minority Commission.