VP Sanu, national president of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), is considered the ‘baby’ among the candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. At the young age of 30, Sanu is making his electoral debut from Malappuram constituency. In a chat with Express Chief Reporter Sovi Vidyadharan, Sanu cited various instances to dismiss the general notion that youngsters are knowingly fighting losing battles against heavyweights. He also decried the practice of tall leaders contesting from two constituencies calling it clear lack of self-confidence. Excerpts
Q: You are the youngest candidate in the fray in this Lok Sabha election and also a newcomer to electoral politics. How do you view your chances in a constituency like Malappuram which is considered a Muslim League stronghold?
A: I am facing this election with a lot of confidence. There have been many instances in the past when the so-called citadels of rival parties have been breached by young faces fielded by the LDF. Take for instance, the wresting of UDF fortress Kottayam by the then SFI state president K Suresh Kurup in 1984 despite the pro-Congress wave. A Vijayaraghavan, the first national president of SFI, wrested the Palakkad seat in 1989. So young candidates need not be underestimated.
Q: In neighbouring Wayanad constituency, there is uncertainty regarding the UDF candidate. There are reports that AICC president Rahul Gandhi will contest from Wayanad. Are you in favour of leaders using certain constituencies as a ‘back-up’ seats in case they lose the other seat?
A: It is an unhealthy practice as it forces a byelection in one seat. Think about the money wasted as electoral expense for contesting in a seat that will be vacated later. It is nothing but pure lack of confidence on the part of the candidate. Had these so-called ‘tall leaders’, who claim to be well connected to people been confident, they would definitely not think about a second seat.
Q: Your rival candidate and IUML national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty has connections cutting across political lines. How do you respond to the criticism that a newcomer like you has been fielded to give a walk-over to the IUML leader?
A: I am not an outsider to Malappuram. As an active worker of Balasangham and later SFI, I have deep connections with a cross-section of people in the constituency. The contacts that I have established in the district are still very much active. Moreover, we have begun our campaign early and have attained a clear upper hand in that aspect. My candidature is not to provide a walkover for the rival. Had that been the case, the League would not have engaged in discussions with radical groups. Clearly, the rival camp is wary of the possibility of a shock defeat.
Q: Though political parties give chance to young leaders to contest, they are usually pitted against heavyweights. Critics say such young candidates are knowingly fighting a losing battle?
A: All 20 candidates of the LDF have been fielded after thorough assessment that they are the best bets to win from a particular constituency. There is no set standard for winnability and young age is definitely not a disqualification. Nobody contests an election to lose. And predicting the outcome of an election using such yardsticks is not wise either.
Q: In a Lok Sabha election held in the same constituency decades ago, your father V P Sakkariya had taken on P K Kunhalikutty who is coincidentally your rival too this time? Will you be able to script the success story your father could not?
A: I was just over two years old during that election Ironically, the candidate of the rival party remains the same showing the reluctance in allowing new faces enter the fray. The political landscape of the state has undergone a sea change over the past three decades. In 2004, we saw T K Hamza recording an impressive win for the LDF by a margin of over 50,000 votes. In this election, all factors are favourable for the LDF to register a win.
Q: The Muslim League is so confident of scripting success from Malappuram. A reason many say that prompted Kunhalikutty to stick on to the constituency despite a section asking him to contest from neighbouring Ponnani. Is Malappuram such a safe seat as the League believes?
A: Using the term safe seat itself is equivalent to mocking the voters of that constituency. Does that mean whoever you field there would win? No way. The voters are very conscious. No matter how tall a figure you are, your work will be assessed in detail by the electorate. There have been many instances in the past when political parties have fallen into this false sense of complacency and the voters have taught them a lesson.
Q: Kanhaiya Kumar, the former leader of JNU students union is the Left’s candidate from Bihar’s Begusarai. He is taking on both a Union Minister from the BJP and also the RJD candidate. Do you see a trend of young leaders rising in electoral politics?
A: In India, all major agitations have begun from campuses - be it FTII, IIT Madras, Hyderabad University, JNU, Ambedkar University or Jadavpur University. The young candidates are in fact by-products of such agitations. They can definitely make a mark in electoral politics and bring in a huge change. However, very few political parties barring the Left, encourage such firebrand young leaders.