When Express managed to get up-close with KC (M) working chairman P J Joseph, he was having lunch at a hotel in Sultan Bathery after campaigning for Rahul Gandhi, the UDF candidate in the Wayanad seat. Joseph is quite thrilled at the tremendous response - from the 25,000-odd Congressmen as well as party leaders - to the song hailing the Congress’ chief’s candidature which he had belted out at the venue of Rahul Gandhi’s public meeting here. He tells Express Associate Editor RAJESH ABRAHAM of UDF’s poll prospects, steps needed to revive the ailing farm sector, an issue which is close to his heart.
Q. What is the sense you are getting nationwide and in Kerala?
A. There is a strong sentiment nationwide for ousting PM (Narendra) Modi. This view is shared even by political parties opposed to the Congress such as Samajwadi Party (Akhilesh Yadav), BSP (Mayawati), Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and M K Stalin (DMK).
In Kerala also, people want to have a say in who will form the next government at the Centre.
Q. How many seats do you expect the UDF to win?
A. The UDF will improve upon its 2014 tally in a big way while the LDF will be able to secure only a few seats. The NDA will fail to open its account yet again in Kerala. It’s not right for me to predict which all seats the UDF will win because that will send a message that we have given up on the other seats. That’s not the case. We are trying hard to win as many seats as possible.
Q. The farm sector crisis is a major issue plaguing Wayanad and your home district of Idukki. The plummeting prices have led to a spate of farmer deaths. But the Left bloc blames it squarely on the Manmohan Singh Government’s pact with the ASEAN. Your take?
A. The Congress’ manifesto talks about a farmer-centric budget as a means of addressing the issue.This will be the first time such an initiative has been proposed. In the farmers’ budget, the focus is on post-harvest operations like value-added products. For instance, when the pepper becomes oleoresin, the prices rise by 15 times.
Similarly, coconut when it becomes virgin coconut oil, the price goes up four-fold. For coconut alone, there are at least 200 different types of value-added products. We need to focus on pushing these post-harvest operations via the farmers’ budget.
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Q.The CPM and the Left leaders have criticised Rahul’s decision to contest from Wayanad. They say it has sent out a wrong message at a time when the Opposition is trying to project a united front to unseat Modi. Your thoughts?
A. If they (the Left parties) want to project a united front to oppose Modi then why did they say Rahul is contesting to become the Opposition leader? Does it not send the wrong signal? Are they sure even before the elections are over that Modi will be the Prime Minister again? Despite all this, Rahul has desisted from attacking the Left. He has focused on the BJP-RSS threat to the country’s secular ethos.
Q. Before the announcement of the UDF candidates, you had expressed the desire to contest the Lok Sabha election. There was also difference of opinion regarding this within the KC(M) leadership.
A. I expressed my desire to contest the Lok Sabha election to raise certain issues in Parliament. Not for anything else.
Q. But post- K M Mani’s demise, is the KC(M) staring at an uncertain future?
A. I do not want to comment on these matters now. Everything will go smoothly. There will not be a split in the KC(M).
Q. You sang ‘Rahul varununde, Rahul Gandhi varununde’ on the dais, where Rahul and other senior leaders were present. How did this come about?
A. Actually, a team had practised the song and was ready to sing at the election rally here at Sultan Bathery. But they had been denied permission. Later, K C Venugopal told Rahul he should indeed listen to the song being rendered by me. That’s how it happened.
The song was written by a woman and her daughter in my constituency. I heard them sing this song at an election campaign in Vannappuram (in Thodupuzha). I liked it. The following day, I made arrangements to get the song recorded at Muvattupuzha. It was recorded with minor changes The song is now a huge hit.
P J Joseph
KC(M) working chairman