The Kerala High Court, which is as proactive as the Supreme Court, disqualified him for six years. But it cannot be his fault altogether because his party moniker ‘Indian Union Muslim League’ contains the appeal to a particular religious identity, alludes to the fact that it represents the ‘Muslims’ in no undiluted form. The now disqualified IUML legislator got some relief when the same judge who disqualified him later stayed the order for two weeks so that he could appeal to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, Justice PD Rajan after ruling that Shaji stood disqualified asked the Kerala Assembly and the Election Commission to take appropriate action. Hs opponent in the 2015 assembly election, LDF candidate MV Nikesh, was not gloating. It doesn’t make him ‘winner’. Nikesh will not automatically become MLA in place of Shaji. If the Supreme Court endorses the High Court decision, there will be a bypoll.

And that bypoll will take place in the shadow of a highly communal polity post the Sabarimala verdict. Nikesh is an atheist as most all communists are. His communist credentials are not under question. The son of CPM stalwart MV Raghavan, who split away from the CPM and with a jugglery of alphabets formed his one-man party, Communist Marxist Party, Nikesh joined the CPM on coming of age.

Nikesh also happens to be a media-person, a journalist, the top anchor of Reporters TV, a blatantly pro-CPM television channel of which he is managing director, a position he relinquished to contest the 2015 elections. The courts so far do not hold using the media to influence elections as an electoral crime. If that was so, many a stalwart media celebrity would be disqualified from filling the form to fight elections.

K Mohammad Shaji is smarting under the collar. He says his disqualification on “communal grounds” is an insult to his idea of fair play, a stain that he has to wash away come what may. "More than the disqualification, it is this imputation that I’m communal which has insulted me. I am not the person I’m made out to be. I’m supported by Hindu leaders of note, does that mean I influenced Hindu voters? I married a Christian, does that mean I appealed to Christians to vote for me?" he asked.

All that is fine but the little piece of evidence that got him slam dunk into the dock is irrefutable. It’s a piece of little paper in which Muslims were told that if they voted against IUML’s Muslim candidate, they will “go to Hell” and nothing bothers the Muslim more than the hereafter. It is the one factor that makes many a Muslim blow himself up with a dose of opium to help.

The IUML is an ally of the Congress and a member of the United Democratic Front (UDF). In his petition, Nikesh alleged that Shaji secured a win by a narrow margin of 2,287 votes using communal practices, of violating norms prescribed under various sections of the Representation of the People Act. The defeated CPM candidate charged KM Shaji with circulating pamphlets asking people not to vote for a candidate who is not a ‘believer’.

The irony in the High Court decision is that Shaji’s greatest strength became his weakest link. And it has not in any way led to a tamping down on the heated rhetoric. Kerala is a hotbed of communal politics, a potpourri of the faithful and the godless pitching to god to get them first past the post. And coming in the wake of the Sabarimala verdict, this whole thing about not indulging in communal practices is a huge joke.

At this point of time, god is at the centre of the political discourse; the guiding hand of decisions taken by the government with the police very much in attention with folded hands. That it is a so-called “secular god” in the centre of the heated rhetoric makes it all the more ludicrous. People and politicians have gone too far in the communal direction and finding a balance is simply out of the way. It has left too many bleeding gums and bruised shins.

Swami Ayyappan and Lord Ram, south and north, are in the thick of electoral politics and Allah cannot be a bystander though the definition of ‘bystander’ in Kerala is different. To the Malayali, a ‘bystander’ is one who is allowed to be with the hospitalised patient at all times. In the political context, the bystander is part and parcel of the network of political hospitals and doctors – political doctors without borders!

Monday, Chhattisgarh goes to polls and then Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the “communal BJP” is fighting with its back to the wall even as the shadow of a yet to rise Yogi's Ram Statue tries to outstrip the shadow cast by Modi's Statue of Unity. The battle between soft Hindutva and hardline Hindutva is a given in the 2019 general elections and Shaji’s disqualification is not going to stop it. He maybe a catholic Muslim but it has come to dawn on people that the Hindu is no less communal than the Muslim. But is that ruling too early to call or too close to call? (IPA Service)