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Indian communists and Catholics forge electoral alliance

Both groups concerned over Western Ghat environmental plan

Indian communists and Catholics forge electoral alliance

Kerala Christians and communists share concerns about environmental protection of the state's Western Ghat region. Picture: Shutterstock reporter, Thiruvananthapuram

March 10, 2014

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The Communist party in Kerala has thrown its support behind five Christian candidates in the southern Indian state, a traditionally Christian stronghold, in the country’s forthcoming national elections.

The move highlights a bridging of the divide between communists and Christians in the state, as well as a growing disaffection between Christians and the ruling Congress party, particularly over the issue of the government’s plans to protect the Western Ghats, a hilly region that runs through Kerala.

Christians, who comprise less than 20 percent of the state’s 30 million population, have been politically decisive in some pockets of the state’s electorate and are traditionally strong backers of the Congress party. 

The Left Democratic Front (LDF), an alliance of communist parties in the state and a perennial foe of the Congress party, says it has agreed to support the five Christian candidates.

“This is the first time that the communists have supported so many Christians,” said A Jayashanker, a political analyst based in the Kerala state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

It is not the first time that communists and Christians have found themselves on the same side of electoral issues, but this time “it is an attempt to take advantage of the current political situation,” as the Catholic Church is disappointed with the ruling Congress party on the issue of the Western Ghats, Jayashankar added.

Christian groups, led by a number of Catholic bishops, have been campaigning against government plans to implement recommendations of the High-Level Green Committee aimed at increasing environmental protection in the Western Ghats.

Christian leaders say the recommendations would, if implemented in their entirety, displace millions of farmers – the majority of them Catholics.

But MA Baby, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a candidate for election from Kollam, denies that the communists are simply playing politics in their support of Catholic candidates.

“We field candidates based on their merits and capacity to garner the maximum number of votes,” Baby said.

A senior communist leader told that they had discussions with Catholic Church representatives.

"We have indicated that we would field a candidate of their choice,” he said.

Thekkethala Innocent, a popular Malayalam film star and member of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one such candidate, running for the Chalakudy constituency.

Innocent told that he was offered the ticket by the LDF as a token of his popularity among the common people.

“My father was a Catholic and a communist,” said the 69-year-old. “He told me that only communists fight for social equality.”

He said religion has nothing to do with politics. “We people in Chalakudy don’t think about people on the lines of their religion or color. We judge them by their qualities as human beings.”

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