Thiruvananthapuram: The recently concluded local body polls in Kerala threw up a surprise result. Anas Vazhakulam, an accused in the attack on lecturer T J Joseph, who's in jail, won a panchayat seat with a huge margin, that too on the ticket of a party that made its electoral debut.
Anas is accused of giving shelter to those who chopped off the hand of lecturer T J Joseph. Ironically, the 30-year-old is also a college lecturer. His family believes he is innocent.
"My husband's win in the elections proves that the people believe he is innocent," said Hasina, wife of Anas Vazhakulam.
Anas was fielded by the Social Democratic Party of India or SDPI launched barely a year ago. It is the political arm of the Popular Front, whose members are accused of brutally attacking lecturer Joseph for allegedly insulting the prophet.
"We fielded Anas with a purpose. The party and the people believe he is innocent. It's this realisation that has prompted us to give him the ticket," said Ajmal K Mujeeb, Muvattupuzha Block President, SDPI.
The party may have won just 12 of the 2000-odd seats it contested across the state, but with
Assembly polls just months away, is it an indication of hardline groups making inroads into Kerala's political landscape?
"This is a dangerous trend. Unless the Congress stops hobnobbing with these extremist groups, it will have disastrous impact on Kerala's secular ethos," said Dr T M Thomas Issac, Finance Minister & CPM Central Committee Member.
"The Congress in Kerala does not have any electoral understanding or tie-up with such extremist groups," said M M Hassan, Spokesperson, Congress.
Assembly elections in Kerala are just six months away. Political observers feel the chances of the SDPI winning an Assembly seat are remote, but they say the party could play a key role in deciding which way the votes swing, especially in Muslim dominated areas.