Kasaragod got a Congress MP after 30 years. The victory is equally sweet for Rajmohan Unnithan who, in his own words, “has never won a panchayat election before.” Expectations - from the party, UDF, people and above all from himself - could be crushing. But Unnithan says he is up for the challenge. “Kasaragod reposed trust in me and, for the rest of my life, Kasaragod will be my only dream,” he tells Express Principal Correspondent George Poikayil.
Unnithan has chalked out the priorities: Healthcare, education, potable water, connectivity and, above all, peace and communal harmony in the constituency.
Excerpts from an interview...
Q: How will you help Kasaragod shed its backward tag?
A: The biggest advantage Kasaragod has over other districts is its land bank. The biggest curse of the district is it does not have a plan to make use of it. My primary responsibility is to bring in development using the land owned by the government.
Development also means a healthy population. We have 12 rivers in the district, but we tap potable water only from one river (Chandragiri) and the district always faces an acute water crisis. Even the district hospital and general hospital do not have water during summer. We should tap rivers and desalination plants in Lakshadweep.
Hospitals are a priority. In Kasaragod, there are instances where people have died before being diagnosed for illness. I will be liasoning with the Centre to bring in a medical college at the Central University of Kerala and also speed up the work of the state government’s medical college at Badiadka. I’ll ensure there are dialysis centres in primary health centres and taluk hospitals.
Q: You said peace is a pre-condition for development. How will you help build trust between communities?
A: Kasaragod district, if not handled with care, can become a communal cauldron. I am not planning to be the representative of a party or a front. I will be reaching out to people of all communities. Special attention will be given to Kannada and Tulu-speaking areas which are lagging far behind other parts of the district. Prosperity is one way to build trust between communities.
Q: From the position of dominance, the Congress is happy playing second-fiddle to the Muslim League in the district. Do you have any plan to revive the party?
A: Even the Muslim League agrees that without the Congress, its strength means little.
In Kasaragod, there is a leadership vacuum. But the leaders should come from the grassroots. Congress workers should drop the idea that they will become leaders by getting their photographs in newspapers and social media pages. Social media gives a fake sense of activity and it is akin to playing with fire. Party workers should re-establish their bond with the people, and the party should groom leaders from the grassroots.
Q: How often will you be available in Kasaragod?
A: Kasaragod reposed trust in me and, for the rest of my life, Kasaragod will be my only dream. I will take along rival political parties and all sections of people for the welfare, prosperity, goodness and peace of the district. I will build a good relationship with the Centre and the state for the development of Kasaragod. I am setting up an office in Payyannur and another in Kasaragod for the people of the constituency to reach me with ideas and problems.