As the battle for Dalit mindspace is getting hotter, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has outwitted CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and BSP leader Mayawati in a popularity test among the
Pulaya community, Kerala’s predominant SCs, who are traditional supporters of Communist parties.
Both Sonia and Karat will be in Kerala on February 14, the former addressing a rally of the All Kerala Pulaya Mahasabha (AKPM) and the latter a CPI(M) rally on the concluding day of the state party conference. The CPI(M) leadership tried to persuade leaders of AKMP to reschedule their rally so as not to overlap with the party rally, but failed.
Sonia Gandhi is the first national Congress leader to address an AKPM meeting. The community has produced many stalwarts in Communist parties and overwhelmingly voted for the Left. Kodikkunnil Suresh, a four-time Lok Sabha MP and a recently-appointed AICC secretary, is among the handful of community leaders in the Congress. Anyway, the All Kerala Pulaya Mahasabha decided to play spoilsport for the CPI(M) party conference and rubbed it the wrong way by inviting Sonia Gandhi.
The community’s participation has been crucial in the success of all political programmes of the CPI(M) and hence its rally on February 14 is bound to be affected by the parallel rally of the AKPM.
All Kerala Pulaya Mahasabha rallies are usually addressed by Communist leaders. This time around, the organisation considered inviting Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi, but zeroed in on the latter.
The politically assertive Pulaya community comprises 60 per cent of Kerala’s Dalit population and eight per cent of state’s population. Kerala has 104 Scheduled Castes, the dominant among them Parayar, Paravar, Vettuvar, Malavedan and Thandan. Most of these castes are confined to small areas while Pulayas are spread across the state.