Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan: Anti-BJP feelings across the nation will crystallise
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan speaks to National Herald about the state’s priorities, simultaneous elections and the series of attacks against minorities around the country
It has been two years since the LDF government came to power in Kerala. The Kannur-born CPI(M) leader and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, speaks to Ashlin Mathew, about the state’s priorities, simultaneous elections and the series of attacks against minorities around the country. He emphasises that the BJP government at the Centre has been implementing the agenda of RSS, while adding that they were aware of RSS and the SDPI trying to constantly divide people on communal lines in the state. He asserts that his government is taking stringent measures to prevent their unlawful activities
You, along with three other chief ministers, visited Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal recently and extended support to him. Should we see it as the coming together of non-Congress, non-BJP parties in the run-up to the 2019 elections?
The support extended to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was primarily to uphold the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. The BJP government has been stifling the Delhi government using the office of the Lieutenant Governor, thereby violating the mandate given by the people. The Supreme Court has rightly set the records straight, allowing the Delhi government to discharge its duties. The Delhi government should be given enough powers to cater to the needs of the people. I would also point out the negative stand taken by the Congress with regard to the Delhi stand-off.
What do you think are the prospects of Opposition unity against the BJP government in the 2019 elections? Do you see the Congress and the Left forming an electoral alliance to fight the BJP at the Centre?
The CPI(M), at its Hyderabad party congress, has emphatically stated its resolve to bring down the BJP government at the Centre. However, this does not mean forming an alliance with the Congress. We will not have any political alliance with the Congress. Different parties upholding secularism have resilience in fighting the BJP on different turfs. I do hope that the anti-BJP feelings across the nation will crystallise into a movement that would bring down the BJP government at the Centre.
The Modi Government appears keen on holding simultaneous elections. Even the Standing Committee of Parliament and the Election Commission seem resigned to it. What is your take and are you ready?
We are opposed to the idea. The CPI(M) has made its stand clear on the issue of simultaneous elections. The move is fundamentally anti-democratic. As per the Constitution, if a government loses the confidence of the legislature, it is bound to resign. If no alternative government can be formed, the House is dissolved and a mid-term election is held. There is no fixed term for the Lok Sabha or state Assembly. Any attempt to prolong the life of the Lok Sabha or state legislature will be unconstitutional and anti-democratic. The right of elected legislators to vote out any government cannot be circumscribed.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan: “We are aware that the RSS and the SDPI (erstwhile Popular Front of India), a Muslim fundamentalist outfit, are constantly trying to divide the people on communal lines and to create communal disturbance. The government is taking stringent measures to prevent their unlawful activities”
How do you evaluate four years of the Modi government?
The performance of Modi government has been a disaster on various fronts. It has crippled the economy and has wrecked the social fabric. The series of attacks against minorities and Dalits have the explicit backing of the ideology of the ruling party. There has been a severe assault on decades-old educational and cultural institutions such as ICHR, ICSSR and FTII. And the government has been continuously interfering with autonomy of institutions like RBI, Election Commission, Central Vigilance Commission and CAG. One cannot view Prime Minister Narendra Modi in isolation from the BJP or the RSS. The BJP government at the Centre has been earnestly implementing the agenda of the RSS.
In a report, it was found that there was a delay of 89 days in MNREGA payments to Kerala. Have you raised this issue with the Central government? Has it been resolved?
In fact, there was inordinate delay in getting funds from the Union government for disbursing wages under MNREGA. We did take up the issue with the Centre and the delay has been reduced. Only ₹92 crore is pending now on account of wages to unskilled workers. The arrears were to the tune of ₹700 crore in the previous year. I believe the issue has been resolved to a certain extent. We are constantly in touch with the Centre to sort out such administrative issues.
I believe that the beef ban controversy has its roots in the misinterpretation of Article 48 of the Constitution. There are many BJP-ruled states which have interpreted Article 48 to hold that cow slaughter should be banned. What is your interpretation of Article 48?
Article 48 is a part of Directive Principles in the Constitution. It is meant to promote agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. Of course, Article 48 advocates steps for preserving and improving breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves. We must see that the BJP and the RSS unleashed cow vigilante groups not to promote animal husbandry. It is part of the RSS agenda to divide people on communal lines and create animosity between them. These people are taking law into their hands with support from the Centre and BJP-ruled states. Since the BJP assumed power in Delhi, there have been around 80 cases of mob attacks and lynchings in the name of cow protection. Altogether, 29 persons have been killed by these groups led by the RSS. Mob lynching is happening even in states where cow slaughter has not been banned. We must notice that two-third of the victims are Muslims and remaining are Dalits. The assault on Dalits and minorities in the disguise of cow vigilantism demonstrates the fascist traits of the RSS. What to eat, what to wear, etc, are the individual choices of people. No one has the authority to curb citizens’ fundamental rights.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan: “The CPI(M) has made its stand clear on the issue of simultaneous elections. The move is fundamentally anti-democratic”
Kerala has been in the news for political violence. The RSS has been accusing the CPI(M) and vice-versa. PFI is also there. How far has your government been able to control and mitigate the violence?
In fact, political murders as well as political violence have reduced drastically since our government assumed office in May 2016. The state is totally free from communal riots for the last two years. The police are taking impartial and effective measures to contain all criminal activities including political violence. The government is not interfering in criminal investigations and the police are given full freedom to take action against the culprits, no matter which political party they belong to or what their status in the society is.
We are aware that the RSS and the SDPI (erstwhile Popular Front of India), a Muslim fundamentalist outfit, are constantly trying to divide the people on communal lines and to create communal disturbance. The government is taking stringent measures to prevent their unlawful activities. I believe people are aware of their ulterior motives.
Given your emphasis on infrastructure and market-led growth, don’t you think that your development vision contradicts the economic policies laid down by Left parties. How different are your policies from that of the UDF?
We are pursuing alternative economy policy to the neoliberal policies introduced by the Congress and being aggressively pursued by the BJP. It is true that we had been lagging behind in infrastructure development, despite achieving global standards in social development indices. The Left government has been focussing on building world-class infrastructure like highways, waterways, ports and airports. I am happy to say our efforts have yielded tangible results.
Kerala State Human Rights Commission has stated that police atrocities in the state are on the rise. What are the specific and concrete steps being taken to tackle this?
I must say the State Human Rights Commission did not make any such observation or statement. It is true that the opposition and a section of the local media have been making wild allegations and have been creating fake stories. The police in the state have been doing a fine job and they have been successful in solving many unresolved cases. The law and order situation has improved and we are the number one state in the country when it comes to law and order. The people of Kerala believe from their experience that crimes will not go unpunished. This is not to say that police are completely faultless. A government inherits the police force from its predecessors. There were some isolated cases but in all such cases, the government has taken a strong stance against the culprits. Along with the police, the government has taken a restorative role.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan: “The BJP and the RSS unleashed cow vigilante groups not to promote animal husbandry. It is part of the RSS agenda to divide people on communal lines and create animosity between them. These people are taking law into their hands with support from the Centre and BJP-ruled states”
After leading the country in social, economic and welfare indices, Kerala appears to be facing a crisis from gulf returnees and a slowdown in remittances. How serious is this crisis and how do you plan to address is?
Our government is aware of this and has been bringing in various measures to tackle the crisis. These include empowering our job aspirants with special skills, attempts to set up employment generation hubs in Kerala and steps for rehabilitation of Gulf returnees.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said only the Left can counter the BJP in Kerala. What would be your strategy to counter the divisive politics of the BJP because in Kerala, the Left is also seen as playing on the soft Hindutva and neoliberal card (appointments of Geeta Gopinathan and VK Ramachandran) to consolidate Hindu votes? Do you think the lower caste votes have been transferred to the BJP?
Anyone aware of Kerala’s situation knows the fact that only the Left can effectively counter the BJP. The Congress has been caving in and adopting a soft Hindutva attitude which in turn is helping the BJP. In the recent by-elections held in Kerala, the Left has been able to check-mate BJP effectively, thereby bringing down their votes. The desperation on account of this is provoking them to incite violence. At the same time, the Congress has been playing second fiddle to the BJP.
Both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism is growing in Kerala. There are reports that global jihadists’ influence over the youth is growing. How do you plan to address it?
It is a fact that just like the RSS, there is small section among the minorities which has taken an extreme position. Both these sections intend to create communal tensions to pave way for a polarisation. However, the government is firm in putting down these forces and will not leave any stone unturned to contain such communal and divisive activities.