Communist leaders in Kerala
Mariam Alexander Baby, the first Catholic to become a member of the Indian Marxist party’s politburo, says he follows Christ ideologically but has no faith in any religion.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPIM, elected Baby, 58, and two others to the 15-member supreme governing body at a five-day party meeting that concluded on Monday.
This is the first time since communism took root in India 73 years ago that a Catholic has been elected to the party politburo, which is dominated by Hindus.
Baby’s elevation prompted certain sections of the media to look upon it as a desperate move by the party to woo Christians, a political force in Kerala, his native state in southern India.
However, Baby said “vested interest media” are projecting a communist-Church tussle in India. “It is not my religion but my work for the party that merited my election,” he said.
Baby, who was baptized into the Latin Catholic Church, said he joined the communist movement when he was 12 to fight against oppressors.
“If the Church was fighting for the poor, I would have joined the Church movement then,” he said. However, he found only communist and trade union movements were fighting for the poor in his village in Kollam district.
Baby, who was Kerala’s education minister until a year ago, said his involvement in the communist movement has brought him to “the stage where I don’t know the mystery of God but know the misery of man.”
He said he follows Christ “ideologically” and considers him a great revolutionary who fought against all injustices by staying away from the rich and powerful who oppressed the poor.
“I don’t follow any religion. I’m Marxist and believe in egalitarianism” that Christ practiced “with great passion,” he added.
Baby wants the Church to play a pro-active role and collaborate with the communists to help the poor.
“If Church leaders practice what Jesus Christ preached, we will have no problem. We oppose only those who use religious platforms for their personal and political interests,” Baby added.
Party central committee member A. Vijayaraghavan said the CPIM chose Baby because he is a senior leader whose experience and leadership skills are required at the national level.
Vijayaraghavan confirmed that his party plans to expand its mass base. “It is our party agenda to widen the network among the dalit [formerly known as the untouchables] and religious minorities who need protection.”
He also claimed his party has always battled sectarianism and casteism in India. “Whenever Christians and Muslims were prosecuted, we have fought against it,” he added.
The party claims to have 1 million members, but only 7 percent are Christians and Muslims. In Kerala, Muslims account for 24 percent and Christians 20 percent of its 31 million people.
The party is in power only in Tripura state in northeastern India. Last year, it lost power in West Bengal after 34 years of rule and in Kerala.
The party’s organizational report indicates it still gets around 5 to 6 percent of the votes across India. It has 16 members in the 543-member Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the federal parliament.
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