The Catholic Church has written to Sonia Gandhi alleging that certain communities have “hijacked” the education sector in Kerala in what is seen as a direct attack on the Muslim League, a Congress partner that is in charge of the education department.
The education sector in Kerala has traditionally been dominated by Christians, who run over 50% of educational institutions in the state. However, the weakening of the Congress and the rising power of the Muslim League in the state has resulted in the latter getting more bargaining power in the coalition.
“People are forced to criticise that some departments like education are being administered by the controlling party as their private property,” Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath wrote in a letter to Sonia, adding that she should not assume that the Catholics will always vote for the Congress Party.
“Catholics are sending strong signals to Congress that they are open to other political alliances with secular credentials,” Thazhath said. The “upper caste” or Syrian Christians in Kerala, along with “upper caste” Hindus have traditionally been the bedrock of Congress Party’s votebase in the state.
He also said that “some universities [in Kerala] are found to be hijacked by certain communities,” a reference to the Calicut University, one of the top two in Kerala, which has come to be dominated by the Muslim League.
The Archbishop’s letter is the strongest indictment of the Congress’ helplessness in the face of an aggressive Muslim League in running the state education department.
The Muslim League has come under criticism for allegedly promoting green color in government schools.
The latest letter, however, is likely to be a reaction to the recent announcement of licenses to schools to expand their plus-two courses. The licenses are considered worth crores of rupees each as each expansion implies an increase in the government subsidy that the school gets.
Most schools in Kerala, even when they are run by the Church or any other organisation, get government subsidies linked to the number of students and teachers in them. However, they need government licenses and permission for expansion.
Allegations are flying thick and fast that the licenses are given on the basis of either communal considerations, and that there is widespread corruption in the allotments.
The government has denied the allegations.