'No amount of false propaganda can undo real Kerala story'

Kerala is the most literate state, has infant and maternal mortality rates which are at par with developed nations and excellent govt schools, hospitals, says CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (File photo | EPS)
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (File photo | EPS)

As the CPM-led LDF government completes two years in office, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan spoke to Preetha Nair on his government’s achievements, take on the Congress victory in Karnataka assembly polls, why he thinks Congress in Kerala is a mirror image of BJP, the real Kerala story and more...


Do you think Karnataka Assembly poll results have catapulted Congress to the pole position of leading the Opposition ahead of the 2024 general elections?
The Karnataka Assembly results boost the democratic and secular forces in the country as it has ensured the defeat of BJP. At the same time, we should remember that the Congress had the highest vote share in the previous Assembly polls too. We all know what happened later on. At least this time around, the Congress should be able to respect the people and their mandate.

Alongside the Karnataka polls, bye-elections were held to two Assembly seats in UP, one in Odisha and a Parliament seat in Punjab. In none of those seats did the Congress emerge as a prominent player. In most of the states, like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra etc., the Congress is either completely absent or is present only marginally. 
There are talks about fielding one Opposition candidate against BJP. Do you think it is feasible? What would be the Opposition strategy in states like Kerala where Congress and CPM are in direct contest?
We have always maintained that state-level coordination is the primary step for a joint effort against the BJP–RSS combine rather than the consultations at the national level. The various assembly election results over the last few years prove our approach is correct. I had mentioned the recent bye-elections. In none of these seats did the BJP win. In fact, in some seats, the BJP wasn’t even a contender. This fact all the more underlines the need for a regional approach to tackle them electorally. As far as Kerala goes, the BJP is nowhere in the picture.

You have said that Congress in Kerala is a B team of BJP. Will it hurt Opposition unity at the national level?
Our position is based on our experience in Kerala. You may recall that the Kerala unit of the BJP had written to the Union government to stop the development works of national highways in the state. Did the Congress not tow the same line and try to stall our NH development? Even about the GAIL pipeline and the Edamon–Kochi Power Highway, weren’t they trying to torpedo them? Didn’t they file a case against LIFE Mission, our flagship project to end homelessness? Didn’t they say that they’ll finish off the four Missions — Aardram, Haritha Keralam, LIFE and Pothu Vidyabhyasa Samrakshana Yajnam — if they come to power? These projects have played a significant role in changing the face of Kerala since 2016. If you look at their stance on various issues over the last seven years, you can see that they’ve mirrored the BJP’s position.

In ensuring Opposition unity, every party has a role to play. Each should realise their strengths and weaknesses and take realistic positions accordingly. Our criticism is that they are not coming up to the expected levels in opposing the BJP. They are yet to come out of the narrow confines of their parochial interests and petty factional politics.

Recently, you’ve alleged that PM Modi is deliberately trying to belittle Kerala. You have also said that the Centre is trying to sabotage the Opposition-ruled states. What are your concerns?
You may remember the earlier Somalia jibe. It seems that the BJP thinks that by denigrating  Kerala, they can win over the people. They have been proven wrong more than once now. The primary concern is that the federal principles enshrined in our Constitution are not being adhered to. In fact, there is a growing tendency to restrict the space of the states and limit their resources while centralisation is being pushed. This does not augur well for India’s federal polity. After all, we are a country of diversity with regional, cultural and linguistic identities. You cannot curtail their flourishing.

I need not go into how people’s verdicts have been subverted in various states and how even the office of the Governor is being politically misused in Opposition-ruled states. Even the apex court has come out time and again on the political misuse of the Central investigating agencies.

The controversial film ‘The Kerala Story’ is causing unrest in several parts of India. The Bengal government banned the movie. Many are asking why the Kerala government did not contemplate such an action, which shows the state in poor light with the 'Love Jihad' theory. How will you counter such narratives?
We have seen how people responded to such promotions. There is a board of film certification to look into issues related to movies. In Kerala, all sections of the people came out against this figment of imagination with clear communal overtones. We are able to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Hence, the people simply did not bother to watch it.

We will definitely project what the real Kerala story is. The real Kerala story contains the peaceful life the society leads here, transcending the barriers of religion, the sense of oneness that every Keralite imbibes, which is marked by the noble values of fraternity displayed in abundance in our social life and the sizeable contribution the NRKs fetch to the foreign reserves of India.

The real Kerala story is that we are the most literate state, our infant and maternal mortality rates are at par with developed countries, our government schools and hospitals have been adjudged as the best in the country by several agencies, including NITI Aayog and so on. No amount of false propaganda can undo any of this.

The BJP is specially focussing on Kerala ahead of 2024. It is highlighting projects like ‘Vande Bharat trains’. Do you think the BJP will be successful in its Kerala mission?
Is a single train the yardstick of special focus? In the railways alone, there are more than half a dozen projects that haven’t been taken up despite being included in its budgets. Then there is the issue of old coaches, the inadequacy of facilities, withholding of concessions, etc. You have to try to make political mileage when you haven’t done your duty.

We have been denied even the promised projects such as the railway zone, coach factory, etc. One should not miss the forest for the trees. The people of Kerala are aware of the share of taxes that have been denied to us, the funds that we were prevented from receiving, the limit of borrowings that have been curtailed, the projects that have been turned down and so on. They are also aware that for every rupee that is generated as revenue from Kerala, the Union does not even utilise even a meager portion of it for our state. So, the people are in no way going to be carried away by propaganda.

The BJP is reaching out to Christian communities. Do you think it will impact the political landscape?
The people of Kerala, including Christians, have seen what has happened in Chhattisgarh and Manipur in the recent past. Our people are well informed of Golwalkar and his 'book, Bunch of Thoughts'. The BJP is going to be further alienated.

Observers say the CPM is trying to woo IUML going by its softened stance towards the outfit. Is the party open to welcoming the IUML into its fold?
It is a hypothetical question, and as long as they remain in the UDF we don’t want to comment on it. It needs to be noted that the IUML is the major constituent member of the UDF. Without the IUML, the UDF will not survive.

What is the status of the Silver Line project?
During his press meet on the Vande Bharat train for Kerala, the railway minister himself had responded to journalists that they are studying the DPR and that the project is very much under consideration. We are optimistic.

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