Updated: March 16, 2021 9:40:25 pm
A Vijayaraghavan, LDF convenor and CPM acting state secretary speaks to indianexpress.com ahead of the Kerala assembly elections, scheduled to be held on April 6. Excerpts:
What factors will be instrumental if the LDF returns to power?
The LDF has in the last five years run an efficient government paving the way for Kerala’s progress. The state has seen a corruption-free regime and rapid progress in strengthening of basic infrastructure. Between Trivandrum and Kochi, there are two new bypasses and three flyovers. A flyover was built in five months. National highway projects, frozen for years, were reactivated. The construction of the natural gas pipeline, renovation of school and hospital buildings, 560 bridges, 1,500 km of highways, 10,000 km of roads — all these are achievements. We also increased social security pensions by 160%. While the overall economic situation in India has deteriorated, Kerala has made progress even during tragedies like the Nipah outbreak, floods and the coronavirus outbreak. The people are watching. We have also preserved secular values in the state and prevented communal clashes.
How do you see the Enforcement Directorate’s recent notices to KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board) officials?
The ED is politically motivated… The Centre believes in privatising everything. The investment through the KIIFB is the opposite of the Centre’s policy. Kerala has diverted its two most important taxes — vehicle tax and fuel duty — to pay back debts for investments. It is an alternative. On the other hand, the Centre wants to give more concessions to corporates. Public sector units are being sold at meagre prices. The Left opposes that pro-corporatisation policy. The KIIFB is highly transparent and there is international-standard accounting. Since they are getting money from outside, they have to be extra vigil about accounting. There is no other agency in Kerala or India with such high-level monitoring of works. Rs 50,000 crore have been spent in five years and Kerala is enjoying its benefits.
The Congress is banking on the gold smuggling case and the recent deep-sea fishing deal, which was cancelled by the government following protests, influencing voters.
The people of Kerala know the tactics of the Congress. It has been nine months since Central investigative agencies began probing the gold case and they haven’t found any evidence. They haven’t been able to find root cause or where the gold originated, they couldn’t track the accused. The agencies have totally failed. The enquiry is politically motivated. Kerala will reject it.
The LDF will get more support in the Assembly elections than the local body polls (it got 40.2% of the votes compared to the UDF’s 37.9%). In the local body polls, there was a ‘political alliance’ — the UDF plus BJP plus Jamaat-e-Islami. Despite that, the UDF lost.
Will the opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act affect the Muslim vote?
The Left’s stand on the CAA has been consistent. The Chief Minister has already said it will not be implemented in Kerala. The CAA is an anti-Muslim Act and it was implemented because of RSS ideology… like the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K and the triple talaq legislation. It’s not people’s preferences that are guiding the Centre, but RSS preferences. The Congress is wavering and has a soft-Hindutva agenda.
Do you see the BJP replacing the Congress as your principal rival in Kerala?
We see the BJP as the party ruling India at the moment — whether they become the main opposition in Kerala or become the ruling party here is not the issue. Naturally, using the machinery of the Central government, they are trying to get a foothold in Kerala. And how are they doing it? By communalising society. Their ideology is extremely dangerous and in a state with a large section of minorities, the effects can be disastrous. That’s how the CPM looks at the BJP’s growth. The BJP represents majority communalism in India and their financial policies are meant to help corporates and impose greater hardships on the common people. Fuel duties have increased by 450% during their term.
As for the Congress… its base is shrinking every day in Kerala. This is not a state where the Congress is gaining strength. Across India too, they are becoming weak. It’s a natural process. Who can save the Congress? As it becomes weak, in other states, their leaders are moving to 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 ages ago in their pursuit of power. The BJP cannot ever come to power here because the Left is here.
What is the CPM’s stand on Sabarimala?
It’s a matter before the court. Let the court verdict come and then you can ask the question.
Are you trying to dodge the issue? (Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier taken a strong stand supporting the Supreme Court decision to allow women of all ages into the temple.) The Congress is talking of framing a law to prevent the entry of women of menstrual age.
You don’t need to talk about Sabarimala every time. There are certain rules concerning framing of laws, can anyone break those rules? There’s a Constitution and there’s a rule of law. The 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 are formally announced. Posters have come up in Kalamassery and Manjeswaram as well. How do you see these protests?
These are just reflections of emotions, it’s not a big deal. These are isolated incidents and they don’t need to be taken seriously. Anybody can stick posters anywhere.
There has been a lot of criticism around the party’s two-term policy for MLAs. While this encourages new leaders, it could end up upsetting your popular candidates.
We have many comrades who have been exceptional in administration in this government. We have to promote others like them so that they get an opportunity too. Last time, we fielded senior leaders with a lot of experience and they performed really well (in government). Let others also get a chance to perform. We don’t have to be stubborn that we will field the same, old faces.
But if this policy continues, even the CM cannot contest in the next election…
Let’s discuss that next time. Right now, the party has taken a well-thought-out decision to have a balance of leaders from the organisation and those with parliamentary experience.