THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The arrival of veteran Congress leader AK Antony has set the agenda for UDF’s electioneering. Antony has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, both keen to see a Congress-mukt Bharat, will ask the BJP cadre to vote for the Left at the fag end of campaigning to prevent the Congress from coming to power in Kerala. In a freewheeling interview to TNIE, the 80-year-old says even communists don’t want the incumbent government to continue in power. Excerpts.
Over the past few days, you have been slamming Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Why?
My opposition is not towards Pinarayi, but the LDF government. My conviction is that the Left should not return to power as it is dangerous. Had Donald Trump returned to power, the world would have been in shambles. If the Pinarayi government, known for its stubbornness, returns to power, can anyone control it? I am not anti-communist. Even my communist friends say that the Pinarayi government should not return to power to ensure the party is not destroyed like in West Bengal.
The LDF has been saying that one should not vote for the UDF as today’s Congress is tomorrow’s BJP.
Rahul Gandhi is the only leader travelling across the country speaking against the BJP and the RSS ideology. The policy of the BJP is Congress-mukt Bharat. Look at their deeds in Manipur, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh, and how they sabotaged the government in Puduchery. Towards the fag end of the campaigning, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will urge their party leaders to ensure support to the LDF so that the Congress does not come to power. The reality is that they will see to it that a Congress government is not formed.
Why should the people, especially the poor, vote against the LDF which has initiated lots of welfare schemes?
Providing food kits to the people is a temporary relief. How long can people survive on kits? Can people always have food from relief camps? Can they survive on Rs 2,000 welfare pension alone? Kerala has the largest number of unemployed youth which is escalating every year. Two floods occurred and the farming and business sectors were affected. What did the LDF government do for them? The PSC no longer has transparency and trust with more than three lakh backdoor appointments made. How can youths vote them to power?
The UDF has been highlighting the Sabarimala issue when the Left says it is not in their poll agenda.
Pinarayi says they will consult all stakeholders and hold deliberations when the Supreme Court takes up the Sabarimala issue. But a day after the earlier Supreme Court verdict, they tried to implement the order in haste. The Left tried to polarise people, as those for and against renaissance. Two women activists were taken from Pamba to Sannidhanam under the protection of more than 200 policemen. Is that not provocation? Women voters who vividly remember the faces of the two women activists who entered the Sannidhanam will not vote for this government.
After 2001, the UDF has not been able to produce a strong performance in the elections. In 2011, the alliance scraped through narrowly. The performance was dismal in 2016. How can you be sure of a UDF comeback?
Earlier, a decision to bring in deep sea trawlers from abroad was objected to by all political parties with MPs from LDF and UDF jointly holding a protest that I had inaugurated at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Now the LDF government has the audacity to allow a US firm to bring in trawlers. That happened because they know none will come in their way. That’s why I am repeatedly saying, and I fear, government will become autocratic should the LDF retain to power.
Do you think the Chief Minister’s Office was involved in the gold smuggling case?
It is a disgrace that the Chief Minister’s principal secretary was involved in gold smuggling. Why has the central government not taken any initiative to grill the UAE Consulate authorities? There are several elements of mystery behind the case. After the customs made much brouhaha over the issue, the ball is in the court of the chief minister, finance minister, home minister and the prime minister to reveal the intricacies in the case.
After the exit of the Kerala Congress (M) from the UDF, the Muslim League has become a formidable force. Will there be power sharing issues?
One party rule had ended in 1959. The IUML had joined the Democratic Front in 1969, when C Achuthamenon was the CM and K Karunakaran the home minister. The IUML has been a part of the UDF for 50 years, and is the second largest party. The chief minister will always be from the Congress.
Is the Congress toeing the NSS line and trying to appease them?
We can’t toe the line of one community organisation. We can take only a balanced view. We have no enmity or dislike towards anyone. We share cordial relations with everyone and have served justice to everyone. Congress has never tried to create any rift among communities to remain in power.
You had aired a strong statement against minorities many years ago. Now you seem to be in a compromise mode.
What I meant was that everyone should be served justice. My theory is that social justice and communal justice should be ensured. The Congress as a whole is not showing any minority appeasement. I don’t know about leaders showing such traits. The duty of the Congress leaders is to protect the rights of everyone. Curtain will fall on my parliamentary career, which started in 1977, in April 2022. After my term ends, I will return to Thiruvananthapuram. I won’t retire and will remain active in Congress politics.