Updated: March 15, 2021 12:42:50 pm
One of the senior-most leaders of the BJP in Kerala, Kummanam Rajasekharan, 68, headed the state unit of the party between 2015 and 2018. Appointed Governor of Mizoram in May 2018, he quit barely a year later to return to active politics. In the coming elections, he is the BJP candidate from Nemom, the only Assembly seat the BJP has ever won in the state:
What is the BJP’s message in the campaign for Kerala?
We are showcasing a development agenda that will throw light on the failures and unkept promises of successive UDF and LDF governments. Our tagline is ‘New Kerala, with Modi’. We have to build a new Kerala. Kerala has lost its special features such as its greenery and traditional industries. Land, water, jobs and housing are the key demands of the people. The rule of the two fronts, over the last 64 years, has led to the collapse of all major sectors. The state’s debt has skyrocketed. There has been no leap in development. There has to be a government which will provide the benefits of all the social welfare schemes run by the Modi government. The NDA can create such a government.
But the LDF claims its thrust on social welfare pensions and delivering food kits through PDS shops has earned it goodwill among people.
The Central government has supplied the (food) provisions and they (the LDF) simply put the same in bags and distribute it. The Centre has supplied 15.5 lakh tonnes of provisions, including pulses, to Kerala. Also, how long can they distribute such provisions for free? People need jobs, housing, water, electricity. What has the state done on these fronts? Look at the NREGA, the Centre paid Rs 2,100 crore and gave jobs to people. Rural roads have been developed under the Gram Sadak Yojana of the Centre. Homes are getting power connections thanks to the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyothi Scheme. National highways have been developed. Trivandrum, Kollam, Alappuzha bypasses, all were built under the Modi government. Metro and ports have been developed… The state government spent crores on advertisements. Every day, there would be six-seven advertisements in papers, all of which were lies. We will go to each and every house and inform the people. We will present a chargesheet against the past LDF and UDF governments. We will also present our manifesto detailing what we plan to do in Kerala if elected.
The LDF has slammed the action against KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board) officials, days after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman raised the matter at a rally. How do you see the charge that the case is politically motivated?
The CAG previously said that the KIIFB has no right to raise money from outside the country in this way. It is not permissible by law. They have to get prior permission from the Centre. The CAG has raised several objections, including to the auditing process. They (can send notices) only when they are probing. It’s not about who is talking about them. The Finance Minister will talk about issues that come to her attention. Officials will do their duty. It’s (Kerala Finance Minister) Thomas Isaac who has to prove whether there is truth in the allegations. He has to answer.
But the notices have been served just before the elections.
There is a time for each and every thing. Is it that anyone can commit any wrong during elections? No. These allegations have been around for a long time, there is violation of FEMA laws, when did they issue masala bonds? There is a case going on in the High Court. The argument that nothing should be done during elections is flawed. If a murder takes place, should the police stand and watch? When a crime is committed, the responsibility of taking action rests on the investigative agencies, be it police or the ED (Enforcement Directorate) or Customs.
The hike in fuel prices is emerging as a big issue.
The Centre has already said that this can be brought under the ambit of the GST. The Kerala government said no. The lion’s share of the tax goes to the state. Through this fuel hike, the state is draining the blood of the people. If fuel is brought under the GST, the prices will come down. Why is the state objecting? There will always be price fluctuations due to changes in international markets. For example, when the prices of fertilisers shot up, the Centre intervened and gave subsidies so that farmers were not troubled. If prices have to be controlled, the GST has to be brought in. The Assam government has reduced the VAT on fuel. Why can’t the Kerala government do the same? They won’t reduce the tax and they won’t allow the GST either. So they are okay with prices touching Rs 90 and Rs 100 per litre. That’s anti-people.
The people understand the situation very well. The Union Finance Minister made it very clear that the Centre was ready to bring fuel prices under the GST. States can discuss it at the GST council. Thomas Isaac made it very clear that Kerala was not ready to do it.
Has the BJP succeeded in its efforts to make inroads into the Christian community in Kerala?
The Christian communities in Kerala face a lot of problems. If you look at the minority welfare projects, there is discrimination. This must stop. Christians are complaining that they are becoming victims to ‘love jihad’. Only the BJP is addressing their problems, not the CPM or Congress.
In the 2016 elections, the BJP had won one seat, but come second in eight. Why do you think the BJP stumbles at the finishing line?
The BJP has a lot of acceptance among the people because it has been consistently raising their issues and standing with them. This is increasing. State BJP president K Surendran led a yatra and it got a huge response, the kind of response that the LDF and UDF didn’t get. There was a sea of people when Amit Shah came. The people have realised that be it the LDF or UDF, there is only corruption. They want a change. When all these factors come together, the NDA will have a huge advantage.
Who does the BJP see as its principal rival in Kerala?
The LDF and UDF are equal rivals. Both fronts will become weak and stand together to oppose the BJP. They would do everything to defeat the BJP. To battle these two fronts equally and emerge victorious is a difficult task. But we will always be a decisive force in the politics of Kerala.
Recently, BJP president Surendran said that if the party gets 30-40 seats (out of 140), it can form a government. How will this happen?
Of course (it will). If we get 40 seats, the coalition set-ups in the state will collapse. Nobody will get a majority. There will be a change in coalition structures. There will be new political friendships. Smaller parties will come towards the NDA.
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