It is cruel to appoint relatives of CPI(M) leaders to Govt posts: Oommen Chandy

By appointing wives of CPI(M) leaders, LDF Govt is cheating thousands of PSC rank holders in Kerala. This is the root cause on the ongoing Thiruvananthapuram protests in front of the Secretariat

It is cruel to appoint relatives of CPI(M) leaders to Govt posts: Oommen Chandy

Ashlin Mathew

With elections around the corner, protests have been raging in Kerala over the delay and the lack of appointment from the PSC rank list and the regularisation of temporary employees linked to CPI(M). AICC general secretary and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said UDF will definitely look into all of these instances.

“We will examine all the appointments on legal and merit basis. Youth Congress has already demanded a judicial enquiry in the matter,” underscored Chandy.

Adding these appointments to the list of LDF failures, Chandy contended that LDF had only completed projects which were begun by UDF. “They have no new projects,” he added.

Edited excerpts of the interview:

You are back to active Kerala politics after overseeing Andhra Pradesh for a couple of years. What are the chances of UDF for these elections?

I was always active in Kerala politics. The Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala’s Kerala yatra has been extremely successful. The public has participated in large numbers and their enthusiasm has encouraged us all.

In the recent local body elections, Congress did not perform well, despite there being several factors in favour of the UDF. You have been called back at this juncture. What are your plans for the Front?

In Kerala, the trends for the Parliament, Assembly and local body elections are completely different. In case of local body elections, most people vote based on their personal likes and dislikes. Usually, UDF has a higher number of rebel candidates. So, most of the time, UDF does not fare well in local body elections. When compared to the 2015 local body elections, this performance was not too bad.

I won’t claim it is a success and we had expected more. We hope to do better in the Assembly elections as all our block committees have become active.

What are the issues UDF plans to highlight and raise for the upcoming elections?

We will focus on the failures of the LDF government in the last five years. They made so many allegations that the UDF government was corrupt, but after completing five years in power, they failed to raise any issues against UDF leaders and ministers.

In case of development projects, they are a failure. Even now, they are claiming several things. They are only completing projects which were begun by UDF. They have no new projects. They can claim credit for Kannur airport project, Vizhinam Harbour, Kochi metro, but UDF initiated these projects.

UDF had started to establish medical colleges in all the districts. When UDF came to power, there were only 5 medical colleges in the state. We had planned to set up 11 more. During our tenure itself, we began work on three medical colleges. We had decided to make two cooperative hospitals and one ESI hospital. LDF simply completed projects declared by UDF. Nothing new has come up. They have failed miserably.

For 2021, CPI(M) has taken a leaf from PM Modi’s 2014 and 2019 playbook. They are using media and social media to their advantage. What is the Congress strategy to counter it?

Congress is planning to start its social media activities. LDF government is spending crores of rupees in the name of government programmes on other things.

We are sure the youngsters will see through LDF’s act. The PSC rankholders have been protesting in Thiruvananthapuram and two of them attempted to die by suicide. The LDF government did a cruel thing by cancelling the PSC rank list without introducing a new list. They did it to bring their people through the backdoor. Lakhs of people were on this list and it was cancelled.

During UDF’s tenure, no rank list was dismantled without a list. Not a single incident has happened. We gave an extension to all the published lists.

News of several appointments of temporary employees with links to CPI(M) have come to light even as appointments from the PSC rank list have not been made. If you come to power, will you cancel the appointments?

Definitely. A number of cheating incidents have come to light. UDF will look into all of these instances. We will examine all the appointments on legal and merit basis. Youth Congress has already demanded a judicial enquiry in the matter. The government will not yield for an investigation as they fear it will expose everything before the election. They are hoping to hide it before the election. Youngsters are angry and vigilant about this.

I agree that no government can give employment to all unemployed youths. But, they have to show to the people of Kerala that not a single employment will go to an undeserving person. The government has the responsibility to maintain transparency and ensure merit-based appointments.

In the local body elections, CPI(M) polarised the electorate. Several Congress leaders have alleged that CPI(M) was playing communal politics like RSS and BJP. How do you plan to win over this polarised electorate?

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and party secretary A Vijayaraghavan issued several statements accusing Muslim League (IUML) of being a communal organisation. IUML is not a social organisation, it is a political party, which is a member of the United Democratic Front. It is a party which has been active for several years. They were in the Left front too. Why did LDF paint such a party in communal colours?

They eventually had to correct their stance. They corrected their party secretary. They were forced to state that their criticism of IUML chairperson Syed Hyderali Thangal was wrong. They understood that they crossed a line, and the people of Kerala will not welcome such communal statements.

Congress has always upheld secularism and religious harmony. We have maintained good relations with all sections of the society. Of course, there are occasions where several parties have had differing opinions with Congress, but we look at it as a democratic process. It is their right to voice their opinion to show their displeasure. We will try to convince them in such instances. We do not look at those who oppose Congress’s views as enemies. Congress will consider their views and we will accept it if there is merit and truth in it. If not, we will try to convince them.

Just because they oppose the Congress, we will not criticise them. That is not the kind of democracy that the Congress believes in. This is the kind of relationship that Congress has with all the members of UDF. We will highlight such contradicting stands taken by the Left front and the killings and attacks by CPI(M) in our campaigns.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, Welfare Party members campaigned and worked for Congress. It was acknowledged by several MPs. But, the moment CPI(M) criticised Congress about it, you publicly declared there will not be any alliance. Is the Congress allowing CPI(M) to set the narrative and Congress seems to have fallen into the trap? Will this work against Congress?

This is a closed chapter and we have addressed this several times. As I have said earlier, UDF will take everyone along. UDF will not consider them enemies just because they have criticised us. We will meet them, if necessary, to explain the matter.

After CPI(M) polarised the electorate, UDF and you have raised the Sabarimala issue. You said you would bring about legislation with 2-years imprisonment for women violating the temple customs. Can you counter CPI(M) with this? Are we not regressing as a society with this?

UDF never intended to or wanted to make the Sabarimala temple issue a political matter. On February 4, 2016, we had submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court stating that the wishes and religious of the devotees have to be respected. Then the LDF government changed it. It came out only when the verdict was announced.

The earlier VS Achuthanandan government in 2006 had submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court seeking the entry of women of all ages in. We withdrew this and submitted an affidavit supporting the wishes of the devotees. A month after this, there were elections, but we did not use it politically. We didn’t tell anyone. Ministers knew about it as it was discussed in the Assembly.

We did not intend to politicise Sabarimala issue. At a time when the review petition is still pending in the Supreme Court, the old affidavit submitted by the Pinarayi Vijayan government is still in the SC. I simply asked if they had withdrawn it. The affidavit which was causing displeasure amongst the devotees has not been withdrawn. We will protect the religious customs of the devotees. UDF is committed to it. This is not a stand taken by the UDF just for elections. UDF and Congress are sincere in the matter.

There are so many Bills regarding the matter. NK Premachandran introduced a Bill on this matter in Parliament. Congress MLA A Vincent also introduced a Bill in Assembly and Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan has now released a draft Bill. UDF will discuss this when the matter arises. Our main aim and concern is to protect the wishes of the devotees.

AICC General Secretary and Kerala in-charge Tariq Anwar submitted a report to Congress President Sonia Gandhi stating that for the local body elections the candidates were chosen based on groups. What will be the criteria for choosing candidates for Assembly polls?

There is no difference of opinion. The candidates will be chosen on merit. The candidates must be acceptable to the voters and have the ability to win elections. It will not be based on groups. We are fighting the elections to win. There will be new faces, youngsters and women.

Kerala Congress (M) was with UDF during the LS elections. After that, they joined hands with LDF during the local body elections. UDF was routed in several of the southern districts including Kottayam, your hometown. What will be the effect of this move in Assembly elections?

We want the Kerala Congress – Mani faction to be with us. KM Mani was a senior leader who was always helpful to the UDF. We wanted them to continue in UDF, which is why we gave his son Jose K Mani a Rajya Sabha seat even though Congress needs to shore up its numbers at this stage. Even then, we gave it to them because we respected Mani. Unfortunately, they left. But, their cadre and followers will understand what LDF did to KM Mani. The people know well that LDF cruelly attacked Mani, but they could not do anything against him. They conducted an enquiry against him for four years, but this government too gave a similar report to what the UDF had filed.

During the last elections LDF raised the solar scandal and now the same scandal is being raised. What do you have to say? LDF wants CBI to probe it…

For the last five years, the LDF government has been investigating the issue. They failed to find anything and take any action against any of us. They filed an FIR with non-bailable sections. We did not go to any court for any remedy. Now, at the end of their term, they have to answer to the people of Kerala about the allegations. They want to transfer it to the CBI. This Chief Minister usually is afraid of the CBI and refuses to send any case to CBI for investigation. Why should we be afraid? We are ready to face any action. Courts have not stayed the matter. Let them investigate.

Congress has made several committees ahead of the election. Could you explain what the role of these committees will be? What are the roles of K Sudhakaran and Shashi Tharoor?

Only the election management and strategy committee is headed by me. It has no political importance. It is a joint leadership committee to manage everything related to elections. Shashi Tharoor has already been to two districts to get ideas for a mass manifesto. He is scheduled to visit more districts to meet people from all sections of the society.

The 2021 Kerala elections are very important for Congress and UDF. It has come at a juncture when Congress is not in power in several states

This election is important not only for Kerala but is important nationally. So, we have all been working together to win the election. We are quite sure we will win.

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Published: 11 Feb 2021, 12:25 PM