BJP undertook silent campaigns in 2016, 2018, and now, but we will win: IUML candidate AKM Ashraf

Political mercury in the constituency rose after it was announced that BJP’s state president K Surendran would contest again from there, but UDF candidate AKM Ashraf is confident of winning

BJP undertook silent campaigns in 2016, 2018, and now, but we will win: IUML candidate AKM Ashraf

Ashlin Mathew

In Manjeshwar, the northern most Assembly constituency in Kerala, UDF and IUML candidate is AKM Ashraf, who is a local resident. It is after years that the constituency has got a local candidate. The political mercury in the constituency rose after it was announced that BJP’s state president K Surendran would contest again from there.

Edited excerpts of an interview with AKM Ashraf:

What are the main issues and requirements of the people of Manjeshwar?

Being a border town, Manjeshwar has a lot of development issues. The first time a UDF candidate won in Manjeashwar was in 1987. Then, the people here wanted bridges to connect a few villages as after the rains people were forced to stay at home. By 1996, there were bridges connecting various localities. Then people wanted better schools, roads, street lights. Most of it was done, but even now the district is backward in terms of educational institutions and hospitals.

This time my promise is to improve the health and educational facilities in my constituency. I have done much work in this regard. During my term as the Manjeshwar Block Panchayat president, I got the first dialysis unit in this district. My dream is to bring a multi-speciality hospital in Manjeshwar. There are three government hospitals here and I want to ensure that they will have 24-hour cardiac and cancer centre.

The BJP candidate K Surendran has also promised a hospital here. So…

I will keep my word.

BJP has been undertaking a silent campaign to ensure votes. Do you think this consolidation of Hindu votes will work against you?

I know that BJP is undertaking door-to-door campaigning, but in Manjeshwar there are a number of Hindu families who are secular. UDF could win all these years because there are many people who are secular here. This time too, they will not allow BJP to win. BJP has been undertaking silent campaigns in 2016 and 2018, but we will win.

In Manjeshwar there are a number of language minorities. Why do you think you will represent them the best?

I know Kannada and I studied Kannada literature for my graduation, I can also speak Telugu; but my opposing candidates cannot interact and understand the requirements of the people here. Both Surendran and Ramesh only know Malayalam and are not from this constituency.

For the last five years I have been at the forefront of the struggle of the language minorities here. If there are cases, I always help them. I will solve the issues of the Kannada minorities on priority as soon as I am elected. In schools they do not have Kannada teacher and that became a huge issue. They have also been demanding reservation. There is also a shortage of Kannada-speaking staff in the offices here. I hope to solve these issues one after the other.

With a mix of Hindus, linguistic minorities and Muslims, Manjeshwar seems vulnerable to communal polarisation. What do you think?

Manjeshwar is not a communally-polarised electorate. I do not remember any instance of communal riots or fights here. BJP enables communal violence. RSS workers killed a Madrassa teacher who was sleeping in the mosque. The Muslim community in Kasargode did not react violently to it. They did not kill anyone in revenge. It is important to maintain the balance.

In this district, most Muslims fall in either the EK Aboobacker Musaliar faction or the AP Aboobacker Musaliar faction. The AP faction is known to support LDF candidates. Won’t that work against you?

The split in votes only happened in 2016 when Surendran lost by 89 votes. In 2019, the IUML candidate MC Kamaruddin won with almost 8,000 vote margin. This time with the arrival of Surendran, there will be a consolidation of Muslim votes and since I am a local Manjeshwar resident, I have more than 3,000 personal votes. Even CPI(M)’s supporters will vote for me.

What problems will arise if BJP wins in Manjeshwar?

This peace and calm in this district will be disturbed if BJP wins. We have seen the situation in Mangalapuram. It has become the hotbed of communal and religious violence and polarisation. In a campus there, if a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy speak to each other, Bajrang Dal and RSS beat them up. If BJP comes here, those people will come across the border here to attempt similar things here. So, people of Manjeshwar will not allow a person from such a party to come here.

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Published: 30 Mar 2021, 1:18 PM