Congress will fight against polarisation in Kerala: Congress Gen. Secy Tariq Anwar

Underscoring that ‘corrective measures’ needed to be taken before the Assembly elections, Tariq Anwar said the party’s campaign will be on communal harmony

Congress will fight against polarisation in Kerala: Congress Gen. Secy Tariq Anwar

Ashlin Mathew

AICC general secretary in charge of Kerala Tariq Anwar has submitted a report to party president Sonia Gandhi highlighting the need for certain corrective measures following a visit to the state where he held meetings with state leaders regarding the party’s poor performance in the recent local body elections.

The LDF had won 514 of the 941 gram panchayats, 10 of the 14 district panchayats and 108 of the 152 block panchayats. The UDF finished first in 375 gram panchayats, 44 block panchayats and four district panchayats. The NDA, led by the BJP, won 23 gram panchayats.

Anwar said that that they will change things at district and block levels, while adding that shortage of funds and groupism also played a role in the lacklustre performance.

Edited excerpts of an interview with Tariq Anwar:

You have submitted the report after the poor performance of UDF in Kerala’s Panchayat elections. What were your observations?

My observations are that some corrective measures need to be taken, where we have not done as well as expected. It was not good. In those blocks, mandals and districts, we will try to change things with the help of the local and senior level leadership. All the steps we recommend will be done after taking the state leadership into confidence.

During the last visit, I met several leaders including party office bearers, MLAs and MPs. They have given valuable suggestions

There were many factors in Kerala which were favourable for a UDF win in Panchayat polls. What went wrong? Was factionalism the issue?

You are right. There were many factors in favour, but there were several other issues as well. According to many party workers, one of main points is the lack of funds. They said we had not given sufficient financial support to our candidates. The Left is in power in the state and BJP has enough money, so Congress leaders also faced that issue in the state. Group politics was also an issue to a certain extent.

In the Panchayat elections, there was an understanding with the Welfare Party. CPI(M) created a controversy around this. Will there be an alliance with the party for the Assembly elections?

Welfare Party is not a part of UDF and there will not be any alliance with the party for the coming Assembly elections. We have already discussed the matter and put it to rest.

The state Congress leadership has accused CPI(M) of playing communal and polarising politics to win the Panchayat and the forthcoming Assembly elections. What is your opinion on this?

We are always against polarising politics – whether it is CPI(M) or BJP. People will also realise that this kind of religious and caste politics should not be allowed. We will campaign rigorously on this ideology. Kerala is a progressive state, and 96% people are literate. In the long run, they will not like this type of politics. CPI(M) is trying to polarise in the name of religion, but ultimately people will be convinced that this is not in the best interests of Kerala. It is unfortunate that a party like CPI(M), which is always claiming to be progressive, is exploiting religion to win elections. If the Left parties are also going in that direction, it is quite unfortunate.

We are a secular party and will fight for communal harmony. This will be a part of the campaign. Even at the national level, there is a realisation about this. The state has always taken a wise decision.

We will convince the people that BJP is not a progressive force. They are confined to religious politics and they are not for development. They will not be able to bring Kerala out of the issues facing it. Only UDF can.

Are there any changes likely to be made for Assembly elections in Kerala?

For the state election, we will look at collective leadership. The candidates will be chosen based on their winnability and not based on groups. We will get feedback from the local committee and we will send our observers there to understand the ground reality. We will give priority to young faces and women candidates. We will look for hardworking candidates with a clean image.

You are going to Kerala again this weekend. What is on your agenda?

I have called for a meeting with the district Congress leaders, state office bearers and frontal leaders. I will discuss with them how to energise our election machinery. We will be assigning responsibilities to various organisations and leaders.

Kerala Congress (M) left UDF to join LDF, while NCP, which was with LDF in Kerala, has shown an interest in joining UDF. Are there any discussions with Sharad Pawar at the national level on this?

I have not personally discussed this with national leaders, but I have discussed with local leaders. When I next go to Kerala, I will finally find out what they have decided. I will discuss it with both the Congress and NCP leadership in Kerala and take a decision based on their observations. Mani C Kappan (of NCP) said he has already discussed the issue with Sharad Pawar. We will also discuss it with the other partners in the front before arriving at a decision. If we induct any new member in UDF, we will have to take UDF partners in confidence. I don’t think there is any hitch at the national level, but the decision has to come from the state level leadership.

There was a talk of a leadership change before Assembly polls. Is it likely?

There will be no change in leadership either at KPCC level or UDF level. They will have to give a collective leadership image. We will take everyone along. As for the Chief Minister face, Congress has never fought with a face unless we were in government. After the elections, we will see what the outcome is and then decide. We will listen to the views of MLAs.

Will any of the sitting Kerala MPs contest the Assembly elections?

We have decided that none of the Kerala MPs will contest the Assembly elections. This decision is final. We will request the UDF partners also to avoid their MPs from contesting in the Assembly elections, though we cannot compel them on this.

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