Into his fifth year as Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy is leading the UDF Government into a full innings despite heavy odds, including a wafer-thin majority of support in the Assembly and grappling with many controversies. Engrossed in the midst of masses and unfazed,Chandy is a man in a hurry to fulfil his mission. Determined and cool, Chandy reposes faith in the people and believes they would definitely stand by him for the good work of the government.
Excerpts from an interview with Mathew A Thomas:
Q: Why couldn’t the govt or the UDF counter the corruption charges in front of the public and the media?
A: I’ll go the people. Let the people decide. The media, in general, doesn’t bother to scan what has happened to the Solar issue or exposed that the allegations have fallen flat. No judicial probe in independent India had such vast terms of reference as in the Solar case. Had the people believed the Opposition,would we have won the by polls ?
Q: No government which ruled Kerala has a record of surviving for long on a wafer-thin majority like the one you have been heading. The fete may be politically remarkable, but you may not be a happy man now for various reasons. Even your Mass Contact programme is not a match for your earlier programme?
A: You are thoroughly mistaken. There is no crisis at all for my government. If people have been carried away by the media hype and politically motivated Opposition campaign, would the UDF have won all the bypolls after it came to power? For a political outfit or government in power, elections are the touchstone of people’s mandate.
I’m Not Under Any Kind of Pressure, Says Oommen Chandy
On the eve of the UDF Government’s fourth anniversary, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy says that there is no pressure on him from coalition partners or other groups and that the LDF will not be able to wean away anyone from the UDF.
Q: There is widespread criticism that as Chief Minister you have been succumbing to a lot of pressure from coalition partners, your own party factions, community organisations and various other lobbies...
A: (With anger welling up on his face) Give me one solid instance to prove it. It is only a smear campaign. (Regaining his normal self) Believe me, there is no pressure at all upon me from coalition partners or other groups. I’m receptive to all and I’m with the people. I never dominate anyone. I maintain cordial relations with all coalition partners. I respect all ministers in my team and they return it in the same vein. I don’t maintain any grudge against anyone.
Q: The LDF has begun attempts to wean away its erstwhile partners like the RSP and JD(U). The BJP is also set to raise its vote share. What’s the way forward to the UDF as the local bodies and general Assembly elections are fast nearing?
A: In no way they will be able to win over them or anyone else from the UDF. When this government came to power, we had a majority of just two legislators. We won the two Assembly bypolls, one of which was wrested from the LDF. An outfit deserted the Left and joined us. Partners have good ties and mutual respect within the UDF. The people have accepted it. There are no issues in the Congress party or with coalition partners as is being made out by some quarters.
Q: Controversies one after the other have been dogging your government in its second half and, of late, internal schisms in the Congress and criticism as well as the unrest among coalition partners are also surfacing. The bar scam has peeled off the face of the government.
A: No. The Opposition, aided by a hostile media, might have been able to create some confusion among the people. But I’m sure that as with the Solar issue,the Opposition is going to cut a sorry figure in the bar scam also. In this age of RTI Act, can’t the Opposition come up with even a single piece of evidence to nail the government instead of spreading canards and baseless allegations to humiliate a veteran like Finance Minister K M Mani? One has to keep in mind that the people in the state gave a clear mandate in favour of the UDF in the last Lok Sabha polls, while the Solar row was raging. People have begun to slowly understand the Opposition game plan in the bar issue also and will respond accordingly.
Q: Where is the collective responsibility in the UDF and the Congress? It’s known to all that the jarring notes on the Vigilance probe are coming from the ‘I’ camp in the Congress which is led by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala. The Kerala Congress and K M Mani now believe that the Vigilance probe is being dragged on at the behest of the ‘I’ faction to corner them...
A: It’s quite natural that Mani feels so. He will later realise the benefit of the detailed Vigilance probe on the charges against him and Excise Minister K Babu. The Vigilance probe is so transparent and an elaborate one for digging out even a shred of valid evidence. I haven’t interfered with the probe at any stage. I’m confident that the probe outcome would establish that the allegations were baseless and concocted. We’re not afraid of it.
Q: The government is keen on mega projects like Kochi Metro and Kannur airport and now the Vizhinjam seaport project. On consistent delivery of welfare projects and effecting payments for various stake-holders, is the rating of the government slipping?
A: There are some issues related to timely disbursal of various welfare pensions. Financial constraints will not pull back the government in fulfilling the obligations. There will be no going back on the flagship projects under any circumstances.
Q: What’s your equation with KPCC president V M Sudheeran now? When Ramesh Chennithala was in the chair,there was a perfect working relationship between the government and the party. The bar issue had its origin in Sudheeran’s adamant stand and it is still lingering...
A: All such issues are closed chapters. All of us are united.
Q: A campaign for unseating you is also building up at the instance of the ‘I’ faction in the Congress...
A: I’m not concerned and it is far from truth. Did anyone who matter raise such a demand openly? I don’t want to react to media reports.
Q: Can the state expect a snap Assembly polls if it is politically expedient and beneficial to the Congress and the UDF, apart from silencing your critics?
A:In the Congress and the UDF, we have now set a pattern to face the polls one after the other. Nothing to the contrary is likely to happen at the moment.