Kerala communists face religious ire ahead of Piravom by-election

Malayala Manorama, Kerala’s largest selling newspaper has carried yet another picture of a Christian figure on front page with the allegation that the saint has been pictured in the likeness of Che Guera by Communists.

Two days earlier, it had carried a rendition of ‘The Last Supper’ put up by a Left trade union that, according to the daily, “mocked” the Christ.

The picture and the allegation, prominently displayed on the front page of the newspaper on Sunday — the Christian holiday — had led to mass protests by Christians against the Communist parties of Kerala.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, of the Congress Party, too called it a “heretical act” and said the Communists would have to face the consequences for hurting the sentiments of the believers.

The new story, also carried prominently on the front page, accuses the Democratic Youth Federation of India — the CPI(M)’s youth wing — of trying to paint the Saint Sebastianos, revered by Christians — as a martyr for social justice.

According to Christian tradition, Saint Sebastian was killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians in the third century B.C..

According to the article, the picture of the Saint put up by DYFI on the occasion of St. Sebastian’s day resembled that of Che Guera, the iconic South American revolutionary revered by Communists.

The daily also pointed out that the hoarding, put up in Thrissur, addressed the Saint as Martyr Sebastian, instead of St. Sebastian, adding that the Saint is seldom referred to without the honorific prefixes.

Sunday’s front-page article too was based on a hoarding put up, allegedly by a left-leaning trade union, which had replaced Christ and his disciples with Obama and Indian politicians respectively.

The article, titled “Christ shown as Obama on (communist) party poster”, said the hoarding “mocked” the Christ and his disciples by replacing them with political figures in the original masterpiece by Lenoardo Da Vinci. The (communist) party defiled the painting held in great esteem by (Christian) believers, the paper said on front page.

The Manorama is Kerala’s largest newspaper. It was started in in 1888 by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai at Kottayam and was first published from a press owned by a functionary of the Indian Orthodox Church in 1890, according to Wikipedia. It is edited by Mammen Mathew.

Local leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) disowned the first poster and alleged a conspiracy behind the events.

“All this is being played out with an eye on consolidating minority votes in the upcoming Piravom by-election,” a Delhi-based CPI(M) leader said.

The Piravom by-election for the state assembly expected to take place before April end. The passing away of the sitting MLA TM Jacob has put the ruling Congress combine under pressure.

Even before Jacob’s demise, the Congress-led ruling coalition had just 2 more members in the state legislature than the Left combine.

To make matters worse, Jacob had won the seat by just 150 votes more than the Left candidate five months ago and a loss will make it 71:69 in the state assembly, with the government held up by the support of just one MLA.

The government is also under pressure from an ally, Kerala Congress (B), which wants its MLA, made a minister at its own recommendation, now dropped from the council of ministers for failing to listen to his party. While the leadership has so far resisted pressure from Kerala Congress (B), the show-down between the party and its ministers may yet take an ugly turn, putting the slim majority under further risk.