KOCHI: One would think he is the most harried member of the ruling Front in the state, considering the heat that has been generated about the handling of the Jisha murder case. But Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala looked anything but that when he turned the tables on the media during an interaction with Team Express, comprising Vinod Mathew, Pradeep Pillai, Mathew A Thomas and Anil S, at Harippad. Reflecting this mood, is his observation that the more Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Kerala, the better it is for the other parties.
Q: Are you expecting any last-minute bombs in the next few days? Is the UDF planning a counter-strike?
A: In elections, all sorts of gimmicks will happen. But the electorate is mature enough to understand this. People will not be fooled. Even if some such thing happens, its veracity will be questioned. Controversies have been there for some time. The UDF will not do anything like that. The good and unparalleled work of the government has been presented to the people. And that will suffice.
Q: Would you agree that the government has come under pressure for the delay in nabbing the culprits of the Jisha murder?
A: We have not seen it as a political threat. The investigation will take its own time. Did not the police do commendable work in the Soumya murder case and Aadu Antony case? In the Jisha case, I would blame the media for creating obstacles for the police through constant interference and sensational reportage. There were no lapses on the part of the police. Perhaps, cops might not have anticipated that the case would attain the present dimension.
The mother of the victim had hurled invectives against Saju Paul MLA and many other local CPM functionaries, holding them as primarily responsible for the murder.
The UDF has not tried to cash in. One should also keep in mind that from the day the Assembly poll was announced, as Home Minister, I could not even make a call to a Sub Inspector. During my tenure of two years as Home Minister, there were no law and order issues, communal tension or riots. Kerala was ranked first in the maintenance of law and order in the country.
Q: Has the campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union Ministers helped the BJP gain an edge?
A: The visit of so many Union Ministers was not appropriate. Let Modi come here more often (laughs). His remarks (like equating Kerala with Somalia) will only help the UDF. His comments against Sonia Gandhi has backfired on the BJP. The speeches of Modi have become counter-productive.
Q: Will the BJP-led front open an account in the assembly this time?
A: The vote share of the BJP may increase or decrease, but they will not open their account. People in the state are secular-minded.
Q: The CPM says that there is a tacit pact between the UDF and the BJP-BDJS? And the latter is acting as a bridge between the UDF and BJP?
A: The CPM was always making such accusations against us. It is only because of the UDF that the growth of BJP has been stalled in Kerala. The CPM is a party which had sought votes in past elections with the pictures of Saddam Hussein. The CPM is desperate to capture the minority votes; hence, the allegations.
The CPM will be eclipsed, like in West Bengal, if not at that pace, the party will definitely become a casualty here as well. I feel that the CPM should remain relevant in the state.
Q: How will the UDF fare in the polls ?
A: The UDF will have a comfortable majority. It will improve its tally in Kollam, Alappuzha and Idukki; in other districts, too. In the past nine years, the UDF was on a winning spree. This pattern will continue, because there is no anti-incumbency. The people will evaluate the development activities of the UDF government. We gave a stable government, one which worked, and provided a peaceful living atmosphere. People will also take into account the schisms within the CPM. The CPM is worried. They know that it is no longer a cakewalk.
Q: If the UDF comes to power, who will become the CM?
A: The Congress high command will decide. It could be anyone.
Team Express winds up the interview with a question whether he could be that candidate. The Home Minister did not answer. Instead, he nodded his head and smiled.