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Church and caste bodies want a bigger slice

With election just a month away (April 13) the powerful church, caste bodies and pressure groups have upped their ante. Poll time is the best time to bargain and they are ready with their preferences and wish lists. Ramesh Babu reports.
By Ramesh Babu | Hindustan Times, T'puram
UPDATED ON MAR 11, 2011 12:07 AM IST

With election just a month away (April 13) the powerful church, caste bodies and pressure groups have upped their ante. Poll time is the best time to bargain and they are ready with their preferences and wish lists.

Though all political parties swear by secular and revolutionary ideas finally they settle for narrow-casting - communal equations and caste representations play a key role while selecting candidates. Leave alone Congress hardcore ideology-driven parties like CPM and RSP are no exception here.

Much to the relief of the left the powerful Catholic church (in Kerala Christians form 20% of the population) will not issue a customary pastoral letter (read during Sunday mass) this time. Ties between the two had plumbed to a new low at the height of self-financing colleges’ issue. At least three ministers had visited Kerala Catholic Bishop Council president Arch Bishop Mar Andrews Thaazathu in recent months to iron out differences.

“The church doesn’t want to make any political statements. However believers know where the church stands and for what,” Syro Malabar church spokesman Father Paul Thelekkat said.

But Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church representative will be meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi this Saturday seeking enough representation for the Orthodox Church. It has sought 11, nine from the Congress and two seats from Kerala Congress (Mani). "This time we hope we will get enough representation," said George Joseph, secretary of the Malankara Association.

To make inroads into Latin Catholic community, predominantly Congress supporters, CPM had fielded Dr K S Manoj from Alapuzha LS constituency twice. In 2004 he made it but it 2009 he bit dust. Last year he had quit the CPM and joined Congress questioning the party’s indifferent attitude towards believers.

Though Nair Service Society, a socio-cultural body of forward Nairs, is keeping an equidistance policy towards both LDF and UDF, the Congress had pacified it a bit by inducting Alapzuha MP K C Venugopal into Manmohan cabinet (Minister of state for Power) in the last reshuffle.

SNDP, the pressure group of backward Ezahavas, is likely to field a couple of independents with the left support. SNDP general secretary Vellapally Natesan has ridiculed 92-year-old K R Gowri Amma’s, former minister and Ezhava leader, bid to contest another election. It is a usual sight in the state that during poll time leaders queue up before community and caste leaders to get their blessings - the latter in turn extract their pound of flesh. This round is no different.

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