Former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy calls out Amit Shah’s bluff; says it’s only a fight between LDF, UDF

“BJP wants a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and LDF wants power at any cost. This is the rallying point between these two parties. But we have nothing to be afraid of,” Chandy said in an exclusive interview

Photo courtesy: PTI
Photo courtesy: PTI

Ashlin Mathew

The Congress is in the final round of seat-sharing talks with the central leadership and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy maintained that the official announcement will be made on Tuesday by UDF chairperson Ramesh Chennithala.

Chandy underscored that even though CPI(M) is facing trouble due to candidate selection, the party would rely only on their strengths to win the elections.

He asserted that Congress is rooted in the minds of the people of Kerala and they can never be removed no matter how much BJP or LDF try.

“BJP wants a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and LDF wants power at any cost. This is the rallying point between these two parties. But we have nothing to be afraid of,” added Chandy.

Here are edited excerpts of the interview with Oommen Chandy:

The seat-sharing talks between UDF partners have begun. At what stage are they?

The seat-sharing talks are progressing, and we will arrive at a decision today itself. It’s almost decided; only an official announcement is necessary. We will announce today itself.

Have all the alliance partners agreed? Many have asked for more seats than Congress wants to give. How many seats will IUML and KC(Joseph) faction be given?

It’s almost done. All that was earlier. Now, there has been an understanding. At this stage I cannot announce anything. UDF chairperson Ramesh Chennithala will be announcing the arrangement today.

This time, CPI(M) seems to have a lot of candidate problems. Do you think that will benefit UDF?

We will always rely on our own strengths. We cannot rely on the weaknesses of our political opponents. If we rely on the weakness of our opponents, once they solve their problem, we will be in trouble.

Do you think there is an understanding between the CPI(M) and BJP?

Both parties are aiming to destroy the Congress. BJP is aiming for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’. CPI(M) wants, at any cost, to share power. So, both parties are aiming to defeat Congress; not just defeat, but destroy Congress.

In 1984 parliamentary elections, when Congress won with a huge majority, BJP got only two seats in India. Even then, we did not raise the slogan ‘BJP-mukt Bharat’. That is not a democratic approach. We want Opposition too. That is the approach of the Congress party. We have never tried to destroy the Opposition. We will oppose them, we will prove our credibility and show their insincerity, but we will never try to destroy them.

At the same time, the Marxist party wants power at any cost. The aims of both the parties have come together to defeat the Congress. So, there seems to be an understanding between them.

Several voter polls have given LDF an edge over UDF. Do you think LDF stands to win?

We have never thought of it that way. The survey shows a close fight between UDF and LDF. In today’s newspaper, there is a news item that Amit Shah said that in Kerala, the contest is between LDF and BJP. This is a secret understanding between LDF and BJP.

They are forcing people to think that the fight is between LDF and NDA. You know what is happening in Kerala; it’s a neck-to-neck fight between LDF and UDF. But, both want to defeat the Congress and sideline the Congress.

The Union Home Minister is telling people of India that the fight in Kerala is between LDF and BJP. So, what do you think is their aim? They want to defeat the Congress and CPI(M) wants to get power. This is the rallying point between these two parties.

But we have nothing to be afraid of. We will tell the people the reality and people will vote for Congress and the Congress-led UDF.

During the local body elections, Christians had voted for LDF. Do you think they will return to UDF?

That is not at all correct. Always, the local body elections depend upon the candidates. In all local body elections, UDF had many rebels contesting. The local elections depend on candidates and rebels. These two influence the local body elections in Kerala.

Recently, in an interview a Congress leader said that if UDF does not return to power, it was only inevitable that Congress leaders would go to BJP. What do you think?

Congress is in the minds of people. It is rooted in Kerala. In Kerala, in 1967, we got only nine seats out of 133. More than 90% of the seats were won by the Marxist party front. But, within three years, Congress came to power.

I agree that was another time. This time also we are quite confident that we will defeat both LDF and BJP in Kerala.

Do you think BJP has any chance in Kerala? There seems to be an understanding with LDF for six or seven seats. Will they win so many seats?

No. Not at all. Last time they got only one seat. This time that too is in doubt.

Are you sure? In Nemom and Vatiyoorkaavu in Thiruvananthapuram?

We will put up a strong fight against BJP and LDF.

CPI(M) said that they will field a lot of young and new candidates. What is Congress’s plan?

We will also give representation to youngsters. We have a good team of young leaders in UDF. We will give importance to new faces. We have already announced that more that 50 per cent of the candidates will be new faces, youngsters and women.

After the Congress announced that there will not be an alliance with Welfare Party, they decided to contest 50 seats. Won’t that be pose problems for the UDF?

We are not afraid of such moves. As I mentioned earlier, we will always rely on our strength and merits. We are not expecting the opponent’s weakness to aid us. We want to win the election, defeat the opponents. The general public is supporting the Congress because they understand the difference between Congress and LDF and Congress and BJP. They want to accept UDF.

So, the names of the candidates will be announced soon? Isn’t it too late already?

No. The nomination dates begin from March 12. There is enough time for them. The seat-sharing announcement will be there today. The All India Congress election committee will begin processing the names of the candidates. The scrutiny committee is meeting today and the election committee is meeting soon afterwards. So, in two days the names of the candidates will also be released.

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