A Vijayaraghavan, head of the LDF and acting secretary of state of the PMO addresses indianexpress.com ahead of the Kerala Assembly elections, scheduled for April 6. Excerpts:
What factors will play a determining role if the DFL returns to power?
The LDF has led for the past five years an effective government paving the way for Kerala’s progress. The state has enjoyed a corruption-free regime and rapid progress in strengthening basic infrastructure. Between Trivandrum and Kochi there are two new bypasses and three overflights. A flyby was built in five months. National highway projects, frozen for years, have been reactivated. The construction of the gas pipeline, the renovation of school and hospital buildings, 560 bridges, 1,500 km of highways, 10,000 km of roads, so many achievements. We have also increased social security pensions by 160%. As the overall economic situation in India has deteriorated, Kerala has made progress even during tragedies such as the Nipah outbreak, flooding and the coronavirus outbreak. People are watching. We also preserved secular values in the state and prevented communal clashes.
How do you view the recent notices from the Application Directorate to officials of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB)?
The DE is politically motivated… The Center believes in the privatization of everything. Investing through the KIIFB is the opposite of the Centre’s policy. Kerala has diverted its two most important taxes – the vehicle tax and the fuel tax – to pay off investment debts. It is an alternative. On the other hand, the Center wants to give more concessions to companies. Public sector units are sold at meager prices. The left is opposed to this pro-corporatization policy. The KIIFB is very transparent and there is international standard accounting. Since they receive money from outside, they have to be very careful with the accounting. There is no other agency in Kerala or India with such high level work monitoring. Rs 50,000 crore has been spent in five years and Kerala is enjoying its benefits.
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Congress is banking on the gold smuggling affair and the recent deep-sea fishing deal, which was canceled by the government following protests, influencing voters.
The people of Kerala know the tactics of Congress. It has been nine months since central investigative agencies began investigating the gold case and found no evidence. They were not able to find the root cause or the origin of the gold, they could not trace the accused. The agencies have totally failed. The investigation is politically motivated. Kerala will reject it.
The LDF will obtain more support in the elections to the Assembly than the polls of local bodies (it obtained 40.2% of the vote against 37.9% for the UDF). In the polls of local organizations, there was a “political alliance” – the UDF plus the BJP plus the Jamaat-e-Islami. Despite this, the UDF lost.
Will opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) law affect the Muslim vote?
The left’s position on the CAA has been consistent. The chief minister has already said it will not be implemented in Kerala. The CAA is anti-Muslim law and it was implemented because of the RSS ideology… like the repeal of section 370 in J&K and the triple talaq legislation. The Center is not driven by people’s preferences, but by RSS preferences. Congress falters and has a soft-Hindutva program.
Do you see the BJP replacing Congress as your main rival in Kerala?
We see the BJP as the ruling party in India at the moment – whether it becomes the main opposition in Kerala or the ruling party here is not the question. Naturally, using the cogs of the central government, they are trying to gain a foothold in Kerala. And how do they do it? By communalising society. Their ideology is extremely dangerous and in a state with a large part of minorities the effects can be disastrous. This is how CPM sees the growth of BJP. The BJP represents majority communitarianism in India and its financial policies aim to help businesses and impose greater hardship on the common people. Duties on fuels increased 450% during their tenure.
As for the Congress… its base is shrinking every day in Kerala. This is not a state where Congress is gaining strength. All over India, too, they are weakening. It is a natural process. Who can save Congress? As it weakens, in other states their leaders are moving towards the BJP. In Kerala, they are not moving to the BJP because it is not in power. If the BJP had a government in Kerala, they would have joined it long ago in their quest for power. The BJP can never come to power here because the left is there.
What is the position of the CPM on Sabarimala?
It’s a court case. Let the court verdict come and then you can ask the question.
Are you trying to avoid the problem? (Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had previously taken a strong stand in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow women of all ages to enter the temple.) Congress is talking about drafting a law to prevent the entry of women of menstruating age.
You don’t have to talk about Sabarimala every time. There are certain rules regarding the making of laws, can anyone break these rules? There is a Constitution and a rule of law. Congress are fraudsters and they stand outside the rule of law. They can do anything.
There have been protests against some of the party’s official candidates in places like Ponnani even before their names were officially announced. Posters were also published in Kalamassery and Manjeswaram. How do you see these demonstrations?
They are only reflections of emotions, it does not matter. These are isolated incidents and do not need to be taken seriously. Anyone can put up posters anywhere.
There has been a lot of criticism around the party’s two-term MP policy. While this encourages new leaders, it could end up upsetting your popular candidates.
We have many comrades who have been exceptional in the administration of this government. We need to promote others like them so that they too have an opportunity. Last time around we put senior leaders on the ground with a lot of experience and they performed really well (in government). Let others also have the chance to play. We don’t have to be stubborn to line up the same old faces.
But if this policy continues, even the CM will not be able to stand in the next elections …
Let’s discuss it next time. Right now, the party has made the well-considered decision to have a balance between the heads of the organization and those with parliamentary experience.