Kozhikode: Muslim Youth League (MYL) state secretary PK Firos is slowly gaining more support from his parent party even as he is embroiled in a legal wrangle. The state leadership of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has openly come forward to defend him for the first time after a first information report (FIR) was filed against Firos at the Vellayil police station in Kozhikode over a complaint filed by CPM's Taliparamba MLA James Mathew.
A day after the FIR was registered on February 15, MYL state president Panakkad Munavarali Shihab Thangal addressed the media and dismissed the allegations as baseless.
Whatever may be the results of the investigation against Firos over charges of forgery of documents and defamation, he has endeared himself to the League leaders for single-handedly attacking their political rivals, especially state minister for higher education KT Jaleel, who was formerly a prominent leader in the League, over alleged nepotism.
Firos has been making repeated allegations against Jaleel over the appointment of his relative, K T Adeeb, to the post of the general manager of Kerala State Minority Development Finance Corporation (KSMDFC). (The Lokayukta had ordered a probe into the case. After the controversy, Jaleel's relative had resigned from the post). Moreover, the state-wide Yuvajana Yathra led by the youth leader was well-received and made him popular in the party.
Panakkad Munavarali Shihab Thangal said instead of probing the allegations raised by Firos, police were quick to register a case against Firos and that was absolutely a political tactic when the Lok Sabha election is round the corner.
To support his allegations of nepotism charges against Jaleel, Firos had cited Mathew's letter to the government. However, instead of denying the letter, Mathew only said, one page of the letter was fabricated, said Munavarali.
The IUML also hinted that Firos might not try for anticipatory bail.
Why CPM is riled
The MYL had filed a complaint with the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) against Jaleel. Subsequently, the VACB had sought the response of the state government on November 28. Though Adeeb quit the job and Lokayukta ordered a preliminary probe against Jaleel, after a complaint filed by a voter in the minister's constituency Thavanoor, no probe was ordered against him. Firos had reasoned that Jaleel had blackmailed the CPM to prevent it from taking action against him over the appointment of Adeeb.
Firos also alleged that Jaleel had threatened to expose the appointment of CPM leader Koliyakod Krishnan Nair's kin to a top post ignoring merit. According to him, D S Neelakantan, son of Koliyakod's brother, was appointed as Information Kerala Mission (IKM) deputy director (technical) in 2017 flouting rules on the intervention of CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. Firos alleged that the CPM was unwilling to take any action against Jaleel fearing a counter-attack by the latter over Neelakantan's appointment.
To substantiate his allegations, Firos had released a letter to the media, purportedly written by CPM legislator Mathew on December 5, 2018. That letter was addressed to minister for local self-governments A C Moideen pointing out irregularities in various appointments, including to the post of deputy director in the Information Kerala Mission. (Moideen took over the ministry last year after Jaleel was shifted to the ministry for higher education in a cabinet reshuffle.) However, legislator Mathew said one of the pages in his letter was forged and he approached Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan on the issue.
Leaders in the IUML say that the government was trying every trick to corner Firos, who exposed major frauds done by them, especially Jaleel, and he has become a 'burden' for the LDF.
Formerly, a prominent leader from the MYL and prior to that as a student leader who worked with organisations like Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Jaleel's entry into the LDF was unexpected and gave the Left an almost equal status in IUML-dominated Assembly constituencies in north Kerala.
Jaleel had faced opposition from his then counterparts in MYL like MK Muneer and KM Shaji over his suspected close links with extremist political organisations. Their attack continued till he was ignored for the post of state president and Panakkad Syed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal was nominated as the leader of the youth wing in 2005. The nomination was a likely ploy to pre-empt an election and thereby block Jaleel from winning the top post in MYL.
Jaleel lost favour with the IUML leadership especially after the death of his mentor Korambayil Ahamed Haji in 2003. Meanwhile, he had lost favour with late party patriarch Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal. Subsequently, Jaleel came closer to the Left front and emerged as an independent leader with huge backing of youngsters.
IUML had to pay the price for Jaleel's exit and irreparable damage in the party strongholds in Malappuram. In the 2006 Assembly election, veterans like PK Kunhalikkutty, ET Mohammed Basheer and MK Muneer lost. Jaleel was hailed as a hero by the LDF for beating Kunhalikkutty in Kuttippuram. The LDF also received the support of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sunnis led by Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musaliar and the People's Democratic Party.
Jaleel grew as a strong hand for the LDF to face the IUML in the north. Last year, there were reports of him planning to make a new political party – Indian Secular League, backed by the CPM. Though the minister as well as the LDF denied the reports, such a pact cannot be dismissed altogether in the upcoming Lok Sabha election and the LDF has to stay strong behind Jaleel to face the IUML just as the latter needs a bright youth leader like Firos.