Despite the recent crossovers from the party and the delay in announcing the entire list of candidates, which gave a headstart to the Left Front, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran is upbeat of sweeping the polls. He tells Express Special Correspondent Arun Lakshman that Tom Vadakkan should not have fallen prey to the BJP’s maneuvering. Excerpts:
Q. Congress faced several hurdles in announcing the candidates. Is the party plagued by active group rivalry, preventing leaders from seeing eye to eye. How’s this going to affect the poll prospects?
A. Congress will be sweeping the elections in the state. I mean the UDF. Being a national party, Congress needs several phases of discussions before announcing the candidates’ list. The party has done basic homework and sought the opinion from all corners on the winnability of the candidates. Winnablity is the only criteria. There is no active group war in the party and these are all rumours and baseless allegations. With the announcement of the list, the party is fighting as a single entity and you can see surprise victories.
Q. There have been criticisms that senior leaders like you, Oommen Chandy and K C Venugopal are not fighting the elections out of fear of losing. Your comment?
A. This is ridiculous. I have announced openly from day one that I will not be contesting the elections. Oommen Chandy is a sitting MLA and has excused himself while Venugopal is the AICC general secretary with huge responsibilities in New Delhi. Everyone knows these are the reasons for all the three of us not contesting the polls. All the reports to the contrary are baseless and raised without a semblance of truth by our political rivals.
Q. While senior leaders are not contesting the elections, sitting MP K V Thomas was denied the seat and P J Kurien was also not considered even though his name figured for Pathanamthitta.
A. K V Thomas and P J Kurien are senior leaders. How can anyone say we haven’t considered them? K V Thomas was the party candidate. But there were some issues, which we discussed and arrived at a consensus to field Hibi Eden. P J Kurien’s name had figured in Pathanamthitta, but he was unwilling to contest. So all these criticisms are baseless and totally unfounded.
Q. As KPCC president, are you satisfied at your performance?
A. It is for the general society and journalists to take stock and comment, but I can honestly tell that the party is on an ascendancy. Rahul Gandhi’s massive programme in Kochi, attended by more than 50,000 booth-level leaders, was a hit. My concept of ‘My booth, My Pride’ has been accepted well by the party. And for the first time in Congress’ history, all the booths have women vice-presidents; we have around 24,970 of them. We also organised mandalam committee office-bearers’ meets and workshops in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Kozhikode. Block president-level programme and workshops were organised in Thiruvananthapuram. All these exercises have given the party grassroots mobility.
Q. BJP state president says several senior Congress leaders will join his party. Tom Vadakkan, once a close associate of Sonia and Rahul, has joined the BJP. Your comments.
A. The BJP state president has been making baseless and ridiculous statements on Congressmen joining the BJP. He won’t get a single Congress leader from the state. What can I say about poor Tom Vadakkan falling prey to the BJP maneuvering is that he should not have gone to the BJP and continued with the Congress, a secular, democratic and nationalistic party with diversity and plurality as its motto. I don’t know what he is going to gain from the BJP which is not his cup of tea.
Q. What are the major issues which you will take up in the general elections in Kerala?
A. The failure of both the state and Central governments will be the main topic of discussion. Both the governments have brought misery to the people. This will be reflected in the elections. The Pinarayi Government had scant respect for the devotees as seen in the Sabarimala issue. Modi is equally bad and demonetisation and GST have brought the people on the verge of breakdown. We will be highlighting these issues and are expecting a favourable response, leading to the UDF sweeping the polls.