KC(M) leader's statement on 'Love Jihad' kicks up row in poll-bound Kerala

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Kochi, Mar 29 (PTI) The 'Love Jihad' issue, which was put on the backburner by the CPI(M)-led LDF and UDF headed Congress during the campaign for the April 6 assembly polls, has reared its head in poll-bound Kerala, with a leader of the ruling Left constituent saying the matter should be addressed if the public has any apprehensions about it.

The statement of Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K Mani kicked up a storm with the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) throwing its weight behind the leader, claiming 'Love Jihad is a reality' in the state.

However, Mani, whose party's support base is largely Syrian Catholic voters of Middle Kerala, backtracked on Monday, apparently sensing that it did not go down well with other constituents of the LDF including the CPI and CPI(M).

It was on Sunday Mani, who is contesting as the LDF candidate from Christian dominated Pala Assembly constituency, raked up the issue in a TV programme on Assembly elections.

Responding to a question on 'Love Jihad', he said 'such an issue has come into the fore.. it should be examined.

If there is something in that issue, that should be addressed.

If again apprehensions are among the public about it, that should be studied with clarity.' Welcoming Mani's statement, KCBC spokesperson Fr Jacob Palackappilly said he was happy about Mani's response on the issue and asked major political parties in the state to reveal their stand on the matter.

Asked for his reaction on Mani's remarks, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Kannur he did not notice any such statements from the Kerala Congress leader.

Pressed further, Vijayan said 'you should ask him about it.' CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said if Mani has made such a statement on 'Love Jihad', that is his party's opinion. 'Don't treat that as the opinion of the LDF,' Rajendran said.

Seizing the opportunity, state BJP chief K Surendran, whose party has promised a law against 'Love Jihad' if the party is voted to power in the state, said Mani's statement has revealed that the issues being raised by the BJP have relevance in the state.

Talking to reporters at Kasaragod, Surendran asked the ruling CPI(M) and its leader Chief Minister Vijayan to reveal their stand on the issue.

He claimed Mani was forced to make a statement due to the strong stand taken by the Christian community on the matter.

In its manifesto, the BJP has promised a special law to contain 'Love Jihad' in Kerala.

As the issue kicked up a row, Mani on Monday backtracked from his statement, saying there was no 'relevance' to the issue in the state as the LDF is fighting the polls on the development plank.

Last year, the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church had stated that 'Love Jihad is a reality' and alleged scores of Christian women from the state were being lured into the trap of Islamic State and used in terror activities.

The Synod, then, had accused the state police of not viewing the matter cautiously and taking timely action in such cases. The state government then had rejected the charges of the Bishops, saying it has 'no factual basis.' PTI TGB BN BN