Kerala bypoll verdict is in favour of inclusive democracy: Christian leader Fr Paul Thelakat

Prominent Christian leader said result is a verdict of the people in favour of inclusive democracy and not for communal politics played by both CPI-M and BJP in Kerala for the bypoll

Kerala bypoll verdict is in favour of inclusive democracy: Christian leader Fr Paul Thelakat

Ashlin Mathew

The thumping win of United Democratic Front (UDF) and Congress’ Uma Thomas in Kerala’s Thrikkakara bypoll was the verdict of the people in favour of inclusive democracy who rejected the communal politics played by both CPI-M and BJP in Kerala for the bypolls, Father Paul Thelakat, a prominent Christian leader and former spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church has said.

Thomas won by a huge margin of 25,016 votes in the bypoll, which was necessitated by the death of her husband and two-time sitting MLA PT Thomas in December 2021. Her margin was higher than that of her husband who had secured a lead of 14,329 votes in 2021 assembly elections.

“First of all, Uma was received well by the people as she was perceived as a good and capable candidate who stood for all communities without distinction of religion or community. It is the success of secularity in politics and democracy, keeping religious and other identities at healthy distance. This win for Congress and UDF was more than a success of a candidate; it was the success of a democratic procedure,” added Fr Thelakat, who is also the editor of fortnightly Catholic paper Light of Truth.

The CPI-M’s eagerness to garner votes of Catholic and the rest of the Christian community was evident from the beginning of the campaigning when its candidate, cardiologist Dr Jo Joseph, was introduced at a press conference at the Lisie Hospital, which is owned by the Syro-Malabar Church. Joseph also works at the hospital.

During the campaigning too, CPI-M had overtly tried to project that the Church was supporting Joseph.

BJP had used PC George, who has been booked for a recent hate-speech and anti-Muslim rant, as a star campaigner for their candidate AN Radhakrishnan. The BJP leaders had claimed that the Christians were supporting BJP because they had seen through the nexus between the other parties and “ultra communal outfits” in Kerala.

Highlighting the communal tone of the bypoll campaign, Thelakat underscored that this time both CPI(M) and the BJP were trying to use the communal card in their political propaganda. It is symptomatic that the electioneering was on skin-deep issues of communal and sensational issues including sex. They did not go into a discussion on social issues, policies and the problems of development.

“On the whole, there was no serious discussion on policies or projects of the government during the election campaigning. The political language was on silly communal and religious problems. This degenerated the level of the discourse and gravity of the democratic electorate. The Marxist party must learn that a multi-party democracy can retain its secularism which is not anti-religion but respects every religion,” added Fr Thelakat.

He was one of the priests who had supported the five nuns calling for the arrest of Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was then accused of raping a nun in Kerala.

Commenting on the phenomenon of political parties and politicians adopting communal language and politics for gaining votes, Fr Thelakat said that this has unfortunately been a practice all over India. “The canvassing of votes was basically oriented on community and religion and caste. That is also perhaps the bane of democracy in India. A democracy and a government should consider everyone as equal citizens without alienating any one or any group. Politics must have its social ethics of responsibility to the other. India is a country which heard ethics of self-discipline, mercy and charity from the thunder of heaven. It shall not involve in politics any means for power of Machiavelli,” said Fr Thelakat.

This was the basic mistake done by both the Marxist party and the BJP, he maintained.

“BJP went to the extreme of getting a man who is a Christian by name, but is involved in hate speech (PC George) for their propaganda. They should have kept such men away from their electioneering. The electorate at large did not like it and reacted against it. That is the reason for the thumping majority Uma Thomas got,” asserted Fr Thelakat.

“What is heartening and hopeful about this Congress win is that the people’s verdict is in favour of politics of inclusion, which is democratic in nature. This is what we witnessed in Thrikakkara. Uma Thomas won with a thumping majority which was unforeseeable for the rest of the parties,” added Fr Thelakat.

He pointed out that the constituency in Kakkanad was relatively new and was made up of individuals migrating from different parts of Kerala to the greater city of Kochi, which is the IT centre of the district. “These are people who understand the political realities of the country and the state,” h said.

This election result is not only a lesson to other parties, said Fr Thelakat, but also must be read as a great lesson for the Congress. “The Congress party must arise of its stupor and check the rankling between the members. If they join and work together, it gives hope to people. This, however, depends on the party leadership and the workers,” he opined.

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