INTERVIEW | For first time, Congress is displaying unity, says Chandy

‘Congress is confident that people will rally behind it and will emerge victorious’ 

Published: 07th March 2021 05:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2021 07:46 AM   |  A+A-

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. (File Photo)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In an exclusive interview to TNIE, senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy criticises the CPM for its attempt at communal polarisation. He feels Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should take everyone into confidence. People have a right to know what Pinarayi and the CPM have to say on the Customs affidavit linking him in the dollar smuggling case. While rejecting allegations that Congress leaders will go to the BJP if the party fails, Chandy also raised apprehensions over the Enforcement Directorate action against KIIFB. Excerpts. 

Q: Has UDF seat-sharing reached a deadlock with PJ Joseph’s adamant stand? Will Congress too go for fresh faces? 
A: Seat-sharing talks are in the final stage. We started early and reached a general understanding. It’s not Joseph’s stubbornness. They are ready to make compromises. The delay has not happened because of differences in opinion. Congress was the first to field young candidates in 1970 when seven of us, including A K Antony and myself, contested. New faces, youth and women will get 50 per cent seats.  

Q: For the first time, the Congress has no government at the Centre or the state. How crucial are these elections for the very existence of the party? 
A: Apart from that, BJP is putting up a huge fight too. We approach the elections realising these aspects. For the first time, the Congress is displaying unity. This has given the UDF and the Congress the impetus to return to power.

Q: Is there a hidden pact between BJP and CPM so that the Left can retain power and BJP increase its tally? 
A: Going by the developments, that cannot be ruled out. The CPM agenda is to ensure a second term and BJP wants to garner a few seats. Both want to ensure Congress’ defeat. But we are confident people will rally behind Congress and we will emerge victorious. 
Instead of trying to hoodwink people, we will address their issues. Sabarimala was widely discussed in LS polls. We supported the devotees, and wanted to protect customs and rituals. This has always been our approach. We have never used Sabarimala for political advantage. 
The Left is making a slew of propaganda campaigns. You must have thought highly of free kits. The UDF government had given free rice to BPL families. That too, not at the fag end of the tenure. The Left is now taking handling charges from consumers. 

Q: There’s a general feeling there will be an exodus of Congress leaders to BJP if the UDF does not win. Even K Sudhakaran mentioned it. 
A: Congress has never taken advantage of someone’s weakness or felt threatened. Congress doesn’t fear CPM or BJP. I don’t know under what context Sudhakaran said that. Tell me, which leader went to BJP after the 2016 setback? Even when PM Modi has been ruling at the Centre with all power and money as well as the central agencies under him, the Congress in Kerala never lost a single day’s sleep.

Q: Didn’t Rahul Gandhi raise concerns on Congress MLAs going to BJP?
A: He highlighted BJP’s despicable ways. After the 1984 LS election, BJP had just two MPs. Did Congress clamour for a ‘BJP Mukt Bharat?’ In Pondicherry, the BJP toppled the government and democratic values were trampled upon. 
Officials in other states tell me they feel the difference between Congress and BJP. In a democratic setup, all have a right to protest. Look at the farmers’ protest. The PM has never bothered to hold talks with protestors.

Q: Do you think the central agencies are targeting Pinarayi?
A: It is Pinarayi who should reply to this. On the ED action against KIIFB, I have certain apprehensions. If the state government is right in the KIIFB masala bond issue, then I don’t endorse ED’s intervention. The LDF government should explain that. We will stand by truth.

Q: Pinarayi began his innings as CM after meeting you at your residence. How do you rate his five years on a scale of 10?
A: People should rate him, not a former chief minister. When I was CM, someone had asked me how many marks I would give myself. I said zero.

Q: So are you giving zero to Pinarayi?
A: Not at all. He should listen to others and take them into confidence.

Q: Has there been a deliberate move to brandish the communal card?
A: The CPM unleashed the communal card, which is really unfortunate. They had to correct their own secretary in-charge. The Congress leadership had visited Panakkad numerous times and this is the first time they made such an allegation. Why did that happen now? They wanted to create communal polarisation.

Q: Contrary to the usual practice of Opposition leader getting prominence, the focus has shifted to you.
A: That’s incorrect. The election coordination is being done collectively. I have been trying to bring everyone together and lead the election.



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