An Orthodox priest who is a candidate in forthcoming elections to the legislative assembly of the southern Indian state of Kerala is to receive support from the state's ruling coalition, led by the Communist Party.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has decided to support 73-year-old Father Mathai Nooranal who is standing as an "independent" candidate for the Sultan Bathery constituency in the district of Wayanad in the north of Kerala.

Announcing the LDF list on March 25 for the Kerala election—scheduled for early May—Communist leaders said they had decided to support the priest not because he was popular, but because of "his long-standing social service" in Wayanad, one of the least developed districts in Kerala.

With a total population of 32 million people, almost 20 percent of them Christians, Kerala is divided into 140 constituencies, each of which will elect an MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) in May.

"They [the Communists] have offered to support me, and I have accepted it," Nooranal told ENI in a telephone interview. Nooranal moved to Bathery, about 1,500 miles south of New Delhi, in 1951 to minister to members of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who had migrated to the hilly region from southern parts of Kerala.

Speaking from his residence at St Mary's Cathedral in Bathery on March 28, Nooranal played down what has been described as his "alliance" with the Communists.

"I am an independent candidate," he said. "They know I am popular, and so they are supporting me. I have been associated with the left and right parties here for decades. It does not make much difference to me. I want to serve the people better."

The founder and office-bearer of dozens of social-service groups and church charities in northern Kerala, ...

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