Amid the frenzied debate in political circles set off by Congress supremo Rahul Gandhi’s soon-to-be finalised candidature in Wayanad LS seat, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has forecast a clean sweep for the UDF in the polls in state. In a candid one-on-one with Express’ special correspondent Arun Lakshman, the senior Congress leader vouches for Rahul as the country’s next Prime Minister.
Q. There is big news that Rahul Gandhi will contest the general elections from Wayanad and AICC general secretary Oommen Chandy has announced the same. You as CLP leader and KPCC chief Mullappally have also substantiated this. What is the ground reality?
A.The state Congress has intimated and requested Rahul Gandhi to contest from Wayanad and indeed it is for the high command to take the call. We are expecting a positive decision on the same by Monday. The AICC leadership will take a call on the same after factoring in all the aspects.
Q. With barely weeks left for the elections - Kerala will go to polls on April 23 - How highly do you rate the chances?
A.The Congress-led UDF will win a landslide. I have crisscrossed the state and found the prevailing political scenario is electrifying for the UDF. People are against the anti-people policies of Narendra Modi and Pinarayi Vijayan. The people are waiting for an opportunity to finish off these anti-people regimes. The general elections are the best time for the people to react and I can tell from my experience that the Congress and UDF will register facile victory in all the seats.
Q. BJP has entered into a political alliance with the BDJS and they are contesting in all the seats and a massive campaign is being conducted. There are reports of fierce three- cornered fights in several constituencies. Your take?
A. The BJP is a political nonentity in Kerala and there is no truth in talk of a three-cornered fight across the state. The contest is only between the UDF and the LDF and BJP-NDA has no role to play in the politics of the state. The educated and highly literate people of Kerala know what is best for them and the Congress-led UDF will indeed win the elections by a huge margin.
Q. Indeed, Congress’ seat-sharing had its share of problems, with the ‘I’ group blaming you for ‘forfeiting’ the Wayanad seat. Your comments?
A.These sort of things are commonplace and shouldn’t be given undue importance. Seats have not been awarded on the basis of group affiliation. As I have said already, the KPCC requested Rahul to contest from a safe seat. Our allies - IUML, KC(M) and RSP - are all charged up after news of Rahul’s candidature emerged. This will give the necessary heft for the party in all the South Indian states, especially in Kerala. However even before the name of AICC president started doing the rounds for the Wayanad seat, the UDF was on course for a big victory. Now, with Rahul’s likely candidature weighing on voters, the LDF and the BJP simply do not stand a chance.
Q.Women’s entry in Sabarimala was a major issue and you had openly come out against it. Is this going to become a poll plank?
A. The LDF Government’s action was against believers and they have scoffed at devotees and their beliefs.People across the state, cutting across religion,caste and creed, were with the believers.The Police Raj clamped on Sabarimala resulted in several devotees being rounded up and this is likely to reflect on the outcome. I am not saying the Congress and the UDF will be raking up the issue, but you can’t fault the public if they think on these lines.
Q.Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has alleged there is a ‘Co-Le-B’ alliance working out in Kerala against the CPM and there is an unholy nexus between the Congress and the BJP in five LS seats?
A. Kodiyeri is living in a fools’ paradise. I can only sympathise with him. The CPM is contesting elections in very few seats and the number of seats which that party will win in the general elections will be much less. Then why are the Congress and BJP coming together to defeat a non entity.
Q. Post floods, the state government has come up with several projects for the state’s development. Your report card on these projects’ progress?
A. The government which failed miserably tried to hoodwink the public by announcing several people- friendly projects after the flood-havoc. However, these projects remain on paper and even the promised assistance of Rs 10,000 to the flood-hit didn’t reach several affected households.