Congress is upbeat about its chances in the upcoming Kerala assembly elections and hopes that past precedent of a change of guard every five years does not skip this time around. The Times of India’s Sreekumar Purayil and Sanjeev Singh spoke to former MP, state minister and senior Congress leader PC Chackoon wide ranging issues from BJP making inroads to how Rahul Gandhi’s unwillingness to become president is letting down the party.
How do you rate UDF’s chances of coming to power in Kerala?
We normally see a change of government in Kerala every five years. But more than this, the current government has come under severe criticism for many failures, especially on the issue of corruption. The LDF does have some achievements to show in terms of development, but corruption is overtaking everything. Of late, the chief minister’s office, the CM himself, and some of his ministers have been linked to some explosive revelations. The government does not enjoy a clean image which is a prerequisite for any government to come back to power in Kerala.
What are the issues that you are raising in your election campaign?
Not a single appointment has been done from the Public Selection Committee (PSC) selection committee. Temporary employees who are cronies of the government or the ruling party are getting appointed. That has led to anger among the PSC rank holders and the people. Thousands of people selected under PSC are up in arms. The government is facing criticism from different fronts. Also, the CPM is a very dictatorial party. Even the coalition partners feel the heat many times. The Left front is a bundle of contradictions. When they are in opposition, they oppose all developmental works. But when they come to power, they become votaries of development. People do not believe they have genuine interest in the development of the state.
How do you assess BJP’s chances in Kerala in these elections?
They could not open their account in 70 years. They narrowly won in one assembly seat due to some failure from the Congress in the last assembly election. They have to reach 71 members from one member to come to power in the 140 member assembly. It is impossible and people don’t consider BJP as a potential party that can rule the state. Only a small section of the Hindus are supporting BJP. They have only managed to poll 14-15 percent votes whereas they need 25-30 percent votes to come to power in Kerala. It is only when Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have come to power in Delhi that they are spending money like water.
The major Hindu community in Kerala is the Ezhava community and SNDP is their organisation. The SNDP Yogam has always been supporting the Congress party except the current president. All leaders of the Nair Service Society (NSS) like Mannathu Padmanabha Pillai were also leaders of the Congress. Our party is very much aligned with Christian groups also because we are a secular party.
How do you view some Christians groups supporting BJP during this election?
Roman Catholics are the majority among Christians, then come the Jacobites and the orthodox Christians among others. By and large, all of them are more comfortable with the Congress than the CPM or BJP. The saffron party is trying to get into their favour by getting involved in a conflict. Two Christian groups are having a fight. The Prime Minister called both groups, so both were happy and went to meet him. The BJP is calculating that since the PM has intervened, one faction will support them, but the fact is that Christians, Muslims or any other minority community in Kerala, they think BJP is against them.
What is your opinion on the ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan joining BJP?
He is a secular man and I believe he cannot be a part of any communal organisation. He may have gone there due to some temptation but he will not be comfortable there. I’m quite sure about that. They are proposing him as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate but there will never be a BJP chief minister in Kerala. So how can he be a chief ministerial candidate.
How do you reconcile Congress fighting the Left parties in Kerala and allying with them in Tamil Nadu and Bengal?
The major political opponent in the country is BJP. So, every other political party thinks the practical solution is to come together under the leadership of the Congress because it is our party that fights BJP at the national level. That is why these parties and Congress have come together in other states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. It just so happens that CPM and Congress are the main political parties, that makes them natural enemies in the state.
Congress does not have a full-fledged president. How does this affect the party?
We are disappointed that Congress is going from bad to worse. Our situation in many parts of the country is getting worse because we don’t have a strong leadership. People are happy with Rahul Gandhi and he attracts crowds wherever he goes and it’s the same with Priyanka Gandhi. But the thing is president is president, and one cannot run the party through nominees. Congress is a president – oriented party. If Rahul is not taking over as president of the party, it will be very unfortunate for Congress.