CPI(M) conspiring with BJP to damage our prospects, but UDF will form govt in Kerala: Ramesh Chennithala

‘LDF is attempting to communalise everything. CM Pinarayi Vijayan is not a communist, he is a capitalist,’ UDF chairperson and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said in an exclusive interview

UDF chairperson and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala 
UDF chairperson and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala

Ashlin Mathew

With just a month to go before Kerala goes to polls, UDF chairperson and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the CPI(M) was using money to create an impression that it was poised to win but that was not true.

Chennithala, who is in Delhi to finalise the seat-sharing arrangement and party candidates, said the LDF was communalising everything. “CM Pinarayi Vijayan is not a communist, he is a capitalist,” he maintained, while slamming the Kerala chief Minister.

The Opposition leader alleged that the BJP was protecting the CM as there is an understanding between BJP and LDF to damage the prospects of the Congress. “They want a Congress-mukt Bharat,” he added.

Edited excerpts of an interview with Ramesh Chennithala:

As an Opposition leader, you have raised several cases – the draconian118A law, Sprinklr deal, housing scam, dollar and gold scam, brewery deal, favourable appointments scam and EMCC fishing deal. The government had to backtrack on most of these cases. Yet, LDF has claimed that these allegations are baseless. What do you have to say?

I have raised these issues with ample proof; without proof and without homework I have not raised any allegation. That is why the government had to backtrack and retract most of the decisions which it had taken. Now, the people of Kerala are well aware of it. The state government is in trouble and they were forced to withdraw almost all the important decisions which they had taken.

Even after the EMCC fisheries deal, dollar and gold scam, the government still seems to be on the front foot. Nothing seems to have dented their image…

That is not correct. With money, they are creating an atmosphere that they are in control by engaging PR agencies. The government is still working with Sprinklr even after the issue was highlighted. LDF wants to create euphoria among people, and they have managed most of the surveys so that people feel that they are coming back. It is not correct. We have an edge and we are fighting. The people of Kerala know that this is a corrupt government, and it has to go. So, I feel UDF will come back to power.

What were the main cases you raised? Of these which caused the government the most harm?

During my five years term as the Opposition leader, I have raised many allegations against the government such as the brewery-distillery case, University marks and appointments issue, Sprinklr case, EMCC deal, e-mobility deal and the sand mining cases. All of these they had to withdraw. All of these affected the government. The gold scam is one of the major issues and they cannot say it is over. It is still going on. People are convinced that we have taken the right steps to highlight the lacunae in the government.

But there is an understanding between BJP and LDF now to cut the Congress. They want a Congress-mukt Bharat, so they are hand-in-glove with each other. This is a new situation which we can see in Kerala.

CPI(M)’s propaganda machinery has been able to counter most of the scandals you have raised. They are insisting that they will come back to power. What is the ground reality?

No. That is not correct. They will not come back. UDF is going to comeback because people now know that this government is corrupt. Ever since this government took over, they are making money in every deal. Everyone knows it. They have mishandled the COVID-19 scenario, floods and Nipah.

There is a perception that LDF handled the flood situation, Nipah and COVID-19 in the beginning in Keralawell…

Later, they failed. The largest number of COVID-19 patients are still in Kerala and deaths due to COVID-19 are only increasing. The CPI(M) is a cadre-based party and their machinery is trying to project as though they hav edone everything well but it is not the truth. People have understood it and will be in favour of UDF.

Do you think the government’s decision to give ration kits all through COVID-19and even now has created enough goodwill for it to win this election?

It has created some goodwill. But that is not enough. During Panchayat elections, they utilised this, but now people have understood their political motive behind it.

The SNC Lavalin case in which CM Pinarayi Vijayan is involved has been postponed 26 times by the Supreme Court and CBI. What message does that send?

This is a clear case of being LDF being hand-in-glove with BJP. BJP wants to weaken the Congress, so it is now protecting the Chief Minister who is involved in the Lavlin case of Rs375 crore. The BJP is protecting him.

As long as this government is in power, there is no future for the investigations because there is an understanding between CPI(M) and BJP leadership.

In the dollar and gold smuggling case…

Here too nothing is happening. The investigation is progressing quite slowly. The Lavalin case has been postponed to April 6, 2021, which is the election day in Kerala. This is a sure sign of complicity.

Do you think the Central government is leveraging these cases to reach an understanding with CPI(M)?

Yes. They want to weaken Congress. That is why BJP wants LDF to continue. But, people of Kerala are not fools. They have understood their game plan and will give a befitting reply.

So, you think there is an understanding between BJP and CPI(M) just like the local body elections?

There is an understanding, and they are working along that line. Recently when Amit Shah came to Kerala, he only criticised the LDF. He never spoke anything against the Congress. He said the fight is with CPI(M). Why? This is because he wanted to create a perception that the fight is between CPI(M) and BJP. They have only one seat in Assembly elections out of 140. How can they become an alternative? It is not possible. It is his wishful thinking, but it is not going to happen.

When UDF had an understanding with Welfare Party of India for the local body elections, LDF communalised it. At the same time, it had an alliance with SDPI. Will that association continue for Assembly polls?

We don’t have any understanding with Welfare Party. LDF tried to communalise our association with Welfare Party. That is not correct. They have apolitical alliance with communal political parties like SDPI and other fringe parties.

After the Congress rejected the alliance with Welfare Party of India, they have decided that they will contest Assembly elections alone. Will it scuttle UDF’s chances?

Not at all. They were always contesting. Let them contest. It will not affect us. We have nothing to do with it.

BJP has said that if they get 40 seats in Kerala, they will come to power. Isn’t that a threat to Congress?

They will not even get one seat. It is not a threat, but they are trying to have an understanding with CPI(M) to help them. That is a problem for us. They are sharing their roles with CPI(M) and this is a political conspiracy by PM Modi and Amit Shah.

During the local body elections, the Christian community had sided with the LDF. Is UDF reaching out to them to bring them back?

We think they will come back. We are comfortable. We have had a lot of discussions with them and have come to know about their apprehensions. We are addressing them through our manifesto.

LDF isattempting to communalise everything. Pinarayi Vijayan is not a communist, heis a capitalist. He is not functioning as a communist and that is what ishappening in Kerala.

Former CPI(M)-Kerala state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that all those who contested thrice should not be given tickets. This was aimed at the CM. Why do you think he said it?

They wanted to cut out some of their senior leaders and that is why they have done it. You can see that there is a lot of protest within CPI(M) due to this for the first time in the history of Kerala. Judicious decisions were not taken by the party and that has created issues.

Nair Service Society has contributed Rs 7 lakh for Ram temple construction. Does this mean that the Nair community is close to BJP?

The Nair community in Kerala is always secular and they will never go to BJP. We are sure about that. Yes, we have to be careful about all Hindu organisations as BJP is trying to woo them. But, in Kerala, where secularism is the basic concept of everybody, BJP will find it difficult.

On Sabarimala, both Congress and BJP opposed the Supreme Court ruling. Congress even said they will bring a law to jail the women who enter. What is the difference between Congress and BJP’s stands on the issue?

BJP wants to politicise the issue. We do not want to politicise it as we believe faith is one’s personal matter. We have to respect that and that is why we stood with the devotees. Sabarimala is a place of secularism and we have to protect it. BJP was trying to create problems there and ultimately people realised it. People gave BJP a proper reply in the next elections.

What do you think are BJP’s prospects in Kerala? They are expecting to win 6-7 seats.

They will not get any seats. That is what will happen in Kerala.

What about UDF’s prospects in Thiruvananthapuram, especially Nemom and Vatiyoorkavu? Did your Aishwarya Yatra help?

UDF will get a comfortable majority in the coming elections. Our Aishwarya Yatra created a momentum and people are happy with it. Every Congress worker is enthused and this yatra has given a new vigour to them. We will definitely comeback.

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Published: 09 Mar 2021, 3:00 PM