Kerala needs a strong, compassionate government: K Muraleedharan

The Congress Lok Sabha MP from Vatakara is now party candidate from Nemom Assembly seat. He explains why he is confident of his win and that of UDF in Kerala

K Muraleedharan (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
K Muraleedharan (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

Ashlin Mathew

To defeat the BJP in its lone seat in Kerala, Congress fielded Lok Sabha MP K Muraleedharan, known to defeat strong candidates, at Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram. Muraleedharan will go against BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan and CPI(M)’s V Sivankutty. The latter won the seat in 2011 and Rajasekharan has never won an election.

In 2016, Muraleedharan had defeated Rajasekharan, who was then the state BJP chief, at Vattiyoorkavu. Then, he had contested Lok Sabha election in Vadakkara, where he defeated CPI(M)’s local strongman P Jayarajan in their own stronghold. Excerpts from the interview:

It has almost been 10days since your campaign has begun in Nemom. How has the response been?

Nemom is a constituency that UDF candidates lost their deposits twice. In such a circumstance, the High Command wanted a senior Congress leader to contest from Nemom. This was the first Assembly seat that BJP won in Kerala and that shouldn’t be repeated. That is how Oommen Chandy was considered first, but if came here, the Puthupally seat that he had been contesting for 50 years would be up for a tough battle. Then the High Command decided to give me an exemption even though I am a Member of Parliament. They asked me if I was ready to contest from Nemom. I agreed. That’s how I reached here.

It’s only after I reached here that the party workers became energised about working in the field. In around five wards and booths, there have been issues. In Nemom there are 181booths, of which 170 booths are active. Earlier, none of the booths were active. Within the next two days, issues will settle in the remaining booths too.

You said that you were not meant to contest this election, but things changed. You were first the MLA for Vattiyoorcavu, then you left it to become the MP for Vadakkara and now you are back to contest as the MLA for Nemom. Won’t people think that you will leave them mid-way?

I had completed eight years as Vattiyoorcavu MLA. I had completed the first five years and three years of the second term. That is when I went to contest in Vadakkara. The reason I went there was because the opposing candidate was a CPM strongman. So, I contested there and won with a high margin. This time the Central Committee decided that MPs should not contest. That is when a situation arose in Nemom.

During the Panchayat elections in December, CPI(M) had won, and BJP had also marginally gained in Thiruvananthapuram. Won’t that affect your chances?

BJP did not gain a lot during local body election. It was only in certain pockets. Earlier, they had power only in one Municipality, this time they won two. But, during the local body elections, CPI(M) had the COVID food kit going in their favour and they attempted to rake up Hindu-Muslim issues by mentioning Welfare Party of India. This time there has been a feeling amongst people that UDF should win in Nemom, and BJP should be defeated. This morning I went fora door-to-door campaign in Nedumangad ward where UDF got only 74 votes. But, when I went there, I got a warm reception. That is why I am saying that I am confident of winning with a huge margin.

You have mentioned that Thiruvananthapuram elites have voted for BJP. Won’t that influence others also to vote for others?

This time all of them will vote for UDF. Earlier, it might have shifted to BJP because of weak UDF candidates. That is what led to O Rajagopal winning in the last election. V Shivankutty had been the MLA from Nemom earlier, but his unruly behaviour in the Assembly where he climbed on the tables, destroyed equipment, was not liked by the elites. But they did not vote for the UDF in 2016 because of the weak candidate. So, that vote went to BJP. All those votes will come back. Shivankutty was the MLA in Nemom during the UDF term, so whatever he did wa susing his MLA funds and the development model pursued by the UDF government. The Karamana-Kaliyakkavila road was constructed during Oommen Chandy’s term.

After RSS thinker Balashankar’s statement, it has become evident that there has been a deal between CPI(M) and BJP. That deal will not work in Nemom. There are many CPI(M)workers who are upset by this deal and will not vote for BJP. Even BJP’s MLA O Rajagopal had stated that the current BJP candidate from Nemom Kummanam Rajasekharan is not my successor. He said Rajasekharan would not get the other votes. Rajagopal had said that I am a strong candidate and a son of a great father.

When the Sabarimala issue raged in Thiruvananthapuram, Kummanam Rajasekharan was the Governor of Manipurand he hadn’t come here. He won’t get any votes in the name of believers.

Is Sabarimala an issue for this election?

It is an issue because the next government has to respond when the review petition comes up in the Supreme Court. The current LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan does not have a clear stand on the issue. UDF has been stating explicitly what our stand would be. We have stated that the affidavit that we had submitted in February 2016still holds good for us. Not just in Thiruvanathapuram, all the believers have understood UDF’s stand. So, BJP will not make much headway this election. This will be the situation for not just Kummanam Rajasekharan but also for K Surendran. He may have lost the 2016 election by 89 votes in Manjeshwar, but the UDF candidate won the byelection by 8,000 votes. So, Surendran does not stand a chance either.

Your father and former Kerala Chief Minister K Karunakaran had also contested from Nemom in 1982?

He had contested from here in 1982. At that time, he had contested two seats – Nemom and Mala. He retained Mala and resigned from Nemom.

Your main opposition in Nemom is CPI(M)’s V Sivankutty. What do you have to say about him?

I will not criticise any opposition candidate. The fight is not between persons, it is between ideologies. A strong and compassionate government in Kerala is required for the development of all in the state. That is our slogan. A lot of people have been missed out during various phases of development. The Karamana-Kaliyikkavilahighway development has only been completed till Pravachambalam. The LDF government has not been able to ensure progress of the road works. Work for the Vizhinam port, Light metro have been stalled. Local development work in smaller areas in the constituency is yet to be taken up.

What are the main issues in Nemom that you hope to solve?

There are multiple issues in Nemom. In certain areas, the drainage system is poor. It is the situation even in the Attukal temple. In several areas in the constituencies, waterlogging after a rainfall is a major problem. There is shortage of drinking water in few areas. On priority basis, I will resolve these issues.

The PSC rank list protests have a resonance in the area as relatives of those who protested are in the area. This protest affected the common man.

The LDF’s government’s decision to get into a contract with US-based EMCC International for deep sea fishing trawlers will affect the coastal voters in my constituency. The government withdrew the contract only after the Opposition leader highlighted the issue. This will affect the fishermen communities. In my constituency, Panamtharayil is the coastal area. I went there and they are all in favour of UDF. We have huge support in the area.

Recently, the Catholic church had criticised the Muslims. Won’t that affect the UDF votes?

All those issues have been settled. There are no issues now. The church is with the UDF. BJP was the first political party in Kerala to attempt to create a wedge between Christian sand Muslims. Then CPI(M) took a similar stand. But Congress leaders got in touch with both the group representatives and reached an amicable settlement.

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Published: 28 Mar 2021, 12:39 PM