Wrapping up the rumblings of discontent in the party, Kerala Congress(M) has entered the election mode with its candidate Thomas Chazhikadan going ahead with campaign work in Kottayam. KC(M) vice-chairman Jose K Mani, who is leading the party’s LS poll campaign not as a candidate for the first time, tells Express Principal Correspondent Abhilash Chandran, people will vote for the continuation of the massive development drive initiated by him.
Q: How is the KC(M) facing this election?
A: As a member of the Kottayam Lok Sabha constituency for over nine years, I could ensure inclusive development of the constituency. I could also effectively intervene in the issues of the people. Knowing that MPLADS fund is limited, I strived hard to bring a range of Centre-funded projects to Kottayam, especially in education, infrastructure development and healthcare. During my tenure, Kottayam turned into a knowledge hub, with a lot of Central institutions, including Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), and second Kendriya Vidyalaya being launched. The railway sector witnessed an unprecedented development drive during the past 10 years with seven stations in the constituency, including Kottayam, being upgraded to Adarsh stations. People want a continuation of these development activities. Some fruitful interventions were made to ensure better price for rubber farmers.
Q: The LDF says you orphaned the constituency by migrating to Rajya Sabha?
A: Such allegations are baseless. I spent nearly `25 crore from MPLADS funds during my second term which is hundred per cent achievement and is still continuing this as a member of the Rajya Sabha. Moreover, I can select Kottayam as my nodal district and I am staying in Kottayam to ensure maximum development here. In fact, Kottayam has been getting ‘double development’ for the past six months.
Q: Unlike the past three LS elections, you are working not for you, but another candidate this time. How do you feel the difference?
A: I think there is no difference, as I have to work in the same manner as a candidate.
Q: Will the internal dissensions over candidature affect the prospects of the candidate?
A: Difference of opinion is common in any democratic system. But it is over as the UDF entered election mode. Moreover, Thomas Chazhikadan is a highly qualified person, who is capable of handling things in Delhi. The advantage of the UDF is it will get two MPs from Kottayam when Chazhikadan wins the election.
Q: How do you rate the winnability?
A: No doubt. 100 per cent. The UDF’s majority will be much higher than the previous election.
Q: What was the difference of opinion with P J Joseph?
A: During the merger of KC(M) and KC (J), one of the conditions was that the factions holding parliamentary positions, right from three-tier panchayat level to Parliament, will continue to hold it. For instance, Mani faction was holding Kottayam Parliament seat and it will continue to hold it. Knowing that KC(M) has the strength to get two Lok Sabha seats, we raised the demand before the UDF, expecting the second seat could be given to Joseph faction. However, the UDF rejected it taking into account the peculiar political circumstance prevailing this time. Though Joseph staked claim for Kottayam seat, the general sentiment in Kottayam was against him and party chairman K M Mani was forced to succumb to the sentiments of the local leadership. I hope, Joseph will understand the same.
Q: Joseph is the working chairman of the party and there is a feeling that KC(M) leadership dishonoured him?
A: No. Joseph was never disgraced by KC(M). Joseph is a towering leader of the KC(M) and his victory from Idukki is certain, had he been given the seat. In fact, we raised a demand for the second seat in the UDF to be given to him. But, we didn’t get it. The party chairman came to know about Joseph’s wish to contest from Kottayam very late as he shared his wish to the chairman just before the party parliamentary committee and steering committee meetings held on March 10.
Q: Was there any intervention from the Congress to create a divide in KC(M)?
A: No, I don’t know.
Q: Was there any move to field Nisha Jose K Mani in Kottayam? How was your family being dragged into controversies?
A: Nisha was never considered a candidate for Kottayam by the party. There was a deliberate attempt to create such controversies. Those who are behind such controversies want to destroy KC(M) and its chairman. Since they have nothing to attack Mani, they are targeting his family members to beat him.