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Pinarayi Vijayan: Haven’t thought of CM candidate; if we get a majority, party will decide

The politburo member, formerly CPM Kerala state secretary, discusses new political equations in Kerala and West Bengal.

Written by Liz Mathew | Updated: April 22, 2016 3:16:00 pm
kerala, kerala polls, kerala elections, ldf, ldf kerala, ldf cm candidate, kerala cpm, cpm kerala, kerala polls, kerala news, Pinarayi Vijayan, kerala cm candidates Formerly CPM Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan

You have said the LDF is targeting more than 100 seats. The general impression is that the election is neck and neck. What makes you so confident?

Our expectation is that we will get more than 100 seats. People are losing their faith in the UDF in a big way. Even those who stood by the UDF have given up on them — farmers, workers — because life has become miserable for them and they have identified that the UDF is the reason. It will reflect in voting.

Despite his slim majority and all the controversies, CM Oommen Chandy has completed his tenure. Is it because of caste-religion equations in the state?

No. It shows the degeneration in the Congress. No party would let such a person continue in the CM’s post. Such is the degeneration in the party that it could not take a decision on a person like him. He has taken advantage of the Congress’s helplessness .

The CPM has launched a statewide publicity blitzkrieg with the tagline “LDF will set everything right”. Isn’t that a break from tradition for your party?

Well, all political parties want to make their campaign more attractive. New campaign tools can influence voters a lot. As most people have mobile phones, it’s a way to reach out to them. The train is a wonderful campaign tool, so we decided to use it, and the response has been very good. The Communist Party always adopted new tools to reach out. Earlier we used to use megaphones, which later became loudspeakers —first on cycles and then on four-wheelers. Some time back, wall graffiti was all about writing a candidate’s name with chalk. Then it was made more attractive, people started using boards and now there are flex-boards.

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What changes would you want to bring if the LDF wins?

Kerala need a comprehensive change – it cannot be confined to one sector. Development should be based on social justice and equality, development has to touch people and different sectors. Some sections in society need more care. The disabled or the mentally ill who are abandoned have so far been taken care of by some NGOs. The government should take care of them. Again, Kerala’s uniqueness is its natural beauty. We have to have development that doesn’t damage this beauty. Now water, water sources, and even nature itself are under the threat of pollution. This has to be taken care of.

Which one issue will you tackle first?

The prices of essential commodities. We will fix the prices of some commodities and these will remain the same for all five years.

Is it true that a section in your party feels the UDF’s development plan is more attractive than the CPM’s?

The UDF has no development. The four things it highlights are Kochi Metro, Vizhinjam project, Kannur airport and Smart City. All these were initiated by the LDF and had the LDF been in power, all of them would have been completed by now. The Metro is not running in Kochi because of the UDF’s mismanagement. Flights would have been landing in Kannur had we been in power.

The CPM has this time seen protests over seat distribution. Doesn’t it show indiscipline in the party cadre, which you led till a few months ago?

There has been no protest against the stance taken by the party on general issues. It is true that there have been some differences on some decisions by the leadership, but those weren’t against the leadership, they reflected local sentiments. The final decision has been the leadership’s. Mostly those protests came from those who had kept themselves away from the party for sometime. They would take stances defying the leadership. These will be known as protests in and by the CPM; in fact, they are not CPM. It doesn’t affect the party, nor it is internal.

Who is the CPM’s chief ministerial candidate? Looking at the posters, one would feel it is Pinarayi Vijayan.

That is not correct. We have not thought about a chief ministerial candidate. If we get a majority, the party will think about it and take a decision.

Posters show you, V S Achuthanandan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. Is VS just one of the candidates or a special candidate?

All of us are ordinary candidates. But the pictures are of those who lead the LDF’s campaign. VS has an important role in leading the campaign, that’s the reason his picture is there. Kodiyeri Balakrishan is the party secretary and I am there as a politburo member contesting the election. The posters should not be seen as sending any other message.

Has factionalism in the party affected seat distribution? Not many Ezhavas got tickets. The Ezhavas have been a CPM vote base but they now have the BDJS.

That’s not true. The CPM emphasises social justice but we do not distribute seats on the basis of caste. The BDJS has not taken any stand to protect Ezhavas’ interests. A majority in the SNDP are eligible for reservation, but the BJP and the RSS don’t believe in reservation. Even PM Narendra Modi says reservation for SCs and STs will continue but he isn’t sure about OBCs. By joining hands with such a party, the BDJS has cheated the Ezhavas.

Are you worried about a division in the Hindu vote because of the BJP?

No. The SNDP is a group that embraces the visions of Sree Narayana Guru, which is contrary to the RSS’s view. The BJP can install statues of the guru but we are ready to take that challenge, they cannot hijack the guru. His vision and the RSS’s cannot go together.

How do you propose to rid the CPM of the image that it opposes everything?

This is an image some people tried to put on the CPM. But we have always accepted new things. The Communist Party has had a publication since the beginning; here we have the newspaper Desabhimani, which is as important as other corporate newspapers. We have always incorporated changes in the communication revolution.

Will the CPM’s understanding with the Congress in Bengal affect it in Kerala?

We have not entered into an alliance with the Congress. The Congress has weakened in West Bengal — they were out of power for decades and a majority of its members went to the Trinamool Congress. In the new circumstances, in which the TMC had demolished all democratic principles, there is a general sentiment against the state’s ruling party. So our party wanted to take advantage of that sentiment. It is not a political alliance.

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