Communal Campaign Fuel Tensions in Kerala's Vadakara Post-Election

The contest between LDF’s K.K. Shailaja and UDF’s Shafi Parambil has escalated into a political row.
Communal Campaign Fuel Tensions in Kerala's Vadakara Post-Election

Vadakara, a key constituency in Kerala, remains tense weeks after the Lok Sabha polls, as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) accuse each other of communal campaigning. The contest between LDF’s K.K. Shailaja and UDF’s Shafi Parambil has escalated into a political row.

On April 25, the day before Kerala voted, the LDF approached the Election Commission with a social media post calling Shailaja a "kafir" and highlighting Parambil's religious practices. The UDF claimed the post came from a fake account, but the dispute has persisted. On May 11, the UDF held a public meeting in Vadakara against alleged communalism by the CPI(M), following a similar march by the CPI(M)’s youth wing, DYFI.

The CPI(M) and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), part of the UDF, have expressed interest in holding an all-party meeting to address the communal attacks, but the Congress has yet to respond.

V.P. Abdul Rasheed, the Indian Youth Congress state general secretary, accused the LDF of resorting to communal tactics after foreseeing electoral failure. He claimed the UDF had highlighted many scams during Shailaja’s ministerial tenure. Conversely, the LDF alleged the UDF presented Shailaja as a communal force to consolidate Muslim votes, which backfired, consolidating secular votes instead.

Political analysts warn that these conflicts could reignite historical tensions in Vadakara, which has a history of CPI(M)-IUML clashes rooted in Thiyya-Muslim landlord disputes. Thiyyas are a Hindu OBC community, while many landlords in the region were historically Muslim.

C.R. Neelakandan, a political analyst, suggested that CPI(M) used communal allegations as a strategy to garner support in case of defeat, while the UDF countered with their own communal campaign.

Vadakara, with its seven assembly segments, has seen six represented by LDF parties, while the UDF holds the Vadakara Lok Sabha seat since 2009. This year, the Congress moved sitting MP K. Muraleedharan to Thrissur and fielded Shafi Parambil in Vadakara, hoping his young, Muslim identity would attract votes. The LDF, hoping to reclaim the seat, fielded K.K. Shailaja, banking on her popularity and achievements as former health minister.Early in the campaign, Shailaja accused the UDF of a cyberattack, prompting Shafi to send a legal notice for defamation. Rasheed contended that Shailaja’s allegations were part of the LDF’s communal strategy, while Basheer from CPI(M) accused the UDF of continuing personal attacks on Shailaja even after the polls.

RMP leader K.S. Hariharan’s controversial remarks against Shailaja added fuel to the fire, leading to a police case. Basheer believes these remarks have hurt the UDF, pushing secular votes towards CPI(M) and ultimately benefiting the BJP through polarisation.