The political battle in Ernakulam constituency will be keenly watched this time. The CPM has fielded state committee member P Rajeev in the LS segment considered a UDF bastion. Rajeev is pitted against Hibi Eden of the Congress.
In an interview to Express Deputy Chief of Bureau Rajesh Abraham and Senior Reporter Anilkumar T, Rajeev says the focus of his campaign is “what I can do if I’m elected from the constituency” and not what his opponent had not done or will not do. Excerpts:
Q: There was a delay in announcing the Congress candidate in Ernakulam, giving you an early start advantage in the campaigning. The entry of Hibi Eden seems to have made the fight tougher for you.
A: Not at all. We’ve been able to maintain the initial momentum. When we launched our campaign, we did not look who the opponent was. Our focus is not what the sitting MP did not do. Our stress is on ‘what I can do for this constituency if I’m elected’. Left front activists in the constituency have been working like a well-oiled machine from the day my candidature was announced. I’ve started my second round of constituency visit. Everywhere, we are seeing a huge turnout of people. The party is also very excited.
Q: Ernakulam constituency is considered a UDF bastion. Also, the Latin community seems to have a big say in deciding the winner. How do you plan to overcome these two factors?
A: This is the era of ‘post-truth politics’. Firstly, the new constituency came into being only in 2009. In the first election after that, we lost by a margin of just 10,000 votes. If we had got 10 votes extra in every booth, this question would have been reversed. The votes we received last time (when Christy Fernandez contested as Left independent) are considered as votes we’ll receive any day - whoever be the candidate. No constituency can be considered a fortress. By naming one constituency or the other a ‘fortress’, we are undermining the power of the people. There are no fortresses and nothing is a monopoly.
Q: Your views on the role of the Latin community.
A: As a Rajya Sabha MP, I had taken the initiative to establish a free dialysis centre in Aluva, perhaps the largest public sector dialysis centre in India. I had also initiated the establishment of a linear accelerator radiation machine for the Ernakulam General Hospital. We don’t look at religion/caste while serving people. Factors (like Latin community votes) are being spread without any basis. Our work will be to alleviate the pain and suffering of all sections. Those who need solace will be taken care of. That’s what we promise. People also look for such leaders who support all sections of the population and not just a certain community.
Q: You said your campaign will be focusing on what you can do for the development of the constituency. What are your plans?
A: Development is a third-generation human right. Lack of pure air to breathe, potable water, quality education, quality healthcare, job opportunities or employment guarantee and infrastructure development; then new generation issues like geriatrics. We need to find a solution. Ernakulam constituency deals with all these issues. We have the metro rail; we also have people living like tribal communities in the coastline. Some people’s lives are dependent on traditional industries in Paravur. We need a comprehensive plan for the constituency. As MP, I’d prepared a plan for the development of Railways in consultation with all stakeholders. Similarly, what do you expect from me for the development of this constituency? We are collecting inputs from all. Based on the inputs, we will consult experts and prepare an action plan.
Q: Many of the Central PSUs in Kochi are not in good financial condition. What are your plans for their revival?
A: The Central PSUs in Kerala, most of which are in Ernakulam, have been neglected by the Central Government. Earlier, thousands of people used to reside in the quarters of HMT and FACT. Now, the HMT quarters remain deserted. Similarly, FACT is on the way down. Same is the case with IRE, HIL. The Cochin Port’s land resembles a funeral ground.
Most of the Central PSUs are struggling to survive. We need to find ways to restructure and revive these PSUs. The government is taking steps to boost the IT sector. Also, there is immense potential for BT. Startups are showing signs of robustness. How can we further boost them? Kochi has a lot of tourism opportunities. The Biennale has further boosted the tourism potential of Kochi. More steps need to be taken to make Kochi the main centre of Kerala tourism.