UDF can definitely win this election; people definitely want a change in Kerala: PC Thomas

PC Thomas of the splinter Kerala Congress faction recently left the BJP-led NDA and had merged with another Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph’s faction

UDF can definitely win this election; people definitely want a change in Kerala: PC Thomas

Ashlin Mathew

Recently, PC Thomas of the splinter Kerala Congress faction left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and had merged with another Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph’s faction. In the NDA, Thomas’ faction was not allotted any seats and by the time he joined hands with Joseph, UDF had finished allotting all the seats. Though they had begun talks six months ago, it came to fruition only on March 17.

Thomas had represented Muvattupuzha Lok Sabha constituency for six terms from 1989 to 2009 and was part of Kerala Congress (Mani) group, a former ally of the UDF. In 2004, he got elected to the Lok Sabha as an NDA candidate from Kerala.

Edited excerpts of the interview:

Why did you leave the NDA?

We were NDA’s partner and had contested 4 Assembly seats in the last election and one Parliament seat. We did not win any seat. NDA could win only O Rajagopal’s seat in Thiruvananthapuram. No one else won, but naturally we should be given seats. This time no seats were given to us. Instead, they were compelling me to contest from Pala stating that they wanted to use full force at Pala to cut short other candidates. I understood that. I informed them that it was not possible and stated that even if I contested in Pala, we want other seats. But, I had decided I would not contest due to personal reasons.

My 39-year-old son, an engineer, has suddenly been diagnosed with cancer and is in a hospital in Cochin. My attention cannot be fully given for an election. I have contested 8 elections, won 6 Parliament elections and have lost two elections - one Assembly and one Parliament. So, losing and winning were not the issues.

Did you not want to contest from Pala because of your association with KM Mani?

My relations with and respect for KM Mani had nothing to do with my politics. It was a purely personal reason. I had informed all the concerned leaders that I would not be contesting from any constituency.

You were a part of NDA, now you are a part of UDF. Both follow extremely different ideologies. So, how did you decide to shift? Isn’t this opportunism?

Kerala Congress is party which has its own ideology. It stands for farmers and the main intention is to develop the farmers and help them come to the forefront. We want to fight for Kerala keeping in mind the national perspective. This is the most important thing. In fact, Kerala Congress was an alliance party of the NDA based on certain common minimum programmes. It is not because we agree fully with one party or the other. That is not the criterion of any united fronts. Even with UDF and LDF, there are parties with different views. People join together based on certain basic matters and one basic factor for us was that our party should get its share in every election. If I am not given any seat to contest in an Assembly election, our party cannot sustain. That is why we left. This is not opportunism.

Any party would have made the same choice and if they did not, then I cannot call it as a political party.

Do you think it was a mistake that you joined NDA many years ago?

It is not a question of a mistake. It was on the basis of a common minimum programme that we joined. When it went against the agreed terms, we walked out. In Kerala, all the smaller parties have changed their Fronts so many times. I had contested and won elections as a UDF candidate five times after which I was ousted from my party and UDF, which I think was wrong then.

Now, you have joined Kerala Congress (Joseph) faction. Your party still has not got any seats.

As we are in an alliance with PJ Joseph’s party, we are contesting in 10 constituencies. We joined hands with PJ Joseph only after the seat sharing talks in UDF were over. So, we did not ask for a seat as we knew that we had joined late. The main thing is my party holds the name Kerala Congress, which was registered in 1964 when it was formed. PJ Joseph wanted to contest under Kerala Congress banner, and he was the chairman of the party earlier. When he went towards UDF from LDF and joined KM Mani’s party, his party’s name became Kerala Congress (M).

What is the symbol that the party candidates will contest under?

After PJ Joseph joined, we tried to get a symbol connected to farmers. We found a symbol with the name farmer, but it has not been allocated. We did not have enough time to get it allocated from the Election Commission as a party symbol. But, we decided that all our candidates will give first preference to the symbol of a farmer sitting on a tractor and ploughing the field.

What are the benefits of joining hands with PJ Joseph?

One of the benefits is that Kerala Congress would get stronger. When I left NDA, I was in a position to go alone as Kerala Congress. I would not have been in any Front and would have had the fate of going alone. When we joined with PJ Joseph, UDF welcomed all of us. Our party workers can participate in an election. The question of not being allotted seats arose even earlier, but at least now we can work together as a party. For now, I am the chairperson; soon, PJ Joseph would be made chairman.

There doesn’t seem to be anti-incumbency against the LDF government. Who do you think stands a chance to win?

UDF can definitely win this election. People definitely want a change. A number of atrocities have been committed by the LDF government. They have been part of several scandals such as the gold scam, Sprinklr and the fishing deal with an American company. They used the government to make all kinds of deals and money. If they get re-elected, their scams will be ‘diamond’ scale and they will not care about poor people.

All the surveys have predicted a win for LDF. What do you have to say?

All the surveys have gone wrong, and we have seen that in several instances in Kerala. In the 2016 election, several survey reports predicted a UDF win, but UDF lost.

What are the main issues in this election?

The main election issue is that the people want a change. The people don’t want leaders who are involved in corruption cases. Swapna Suresh has named the Kerala CM directly in gold smuggling case. LDF had promised change in land laws in the Western Ghats to the farmers, but they haven’t done anything. The Kerala government has sold the sea to an American company and the fishermen have been cheated.

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