Mullappally Ramachandran interview: ‘BJP can grow in Kerala only by splitting the secular vote… It is a dangerous scheme’

Congress Kerala president Mullappally Ramachandran speaks to The Indian Express ahead of the Kerala Assembly elections on April 6.

Congress Kerala president Mullappally Ramachandran speaks to The Indian Express ahead of the Kerala Assembly elections on April 6. Edited excerpts:

As campaigning enters the last lap, how do you see the UDF’s prospects?

The UDF will win. We don’t go by the surveys predicting the LDF will retain power. These surveys have been held for the LDF. Some agencies had approached me also for surveys, but we didn’t agree to their conditions… Surveys have gone wrong several times in Kerala. Why should people vote again for the LDF? What have they done to take credit for in the last five years?

The LDF government is banking on its welfare schemes.

The pension scheme was started by the Congress government… the amount has been increased over the years. Our government distributed 25 kg of rice at Rs 1 per kg to all BPL families… the LDF is now projecting distribution of subsidised rice in festival seasons as a big achievement. They did not distribute rice under the mid-day meal scheme for students last few months but have decided to do so now to influence voters. The people of Kerala will not fall for this propaganda.

The Congress manifesto makes huge promises on the welfare front, which will involve big financial commitments.

Our manifesto should not be construed as that of the Congress or the UDF. We have held interactions with all sections of the people and brought out a people’s manifesto, reflecting the sentiments of all sections. I don’t agree that the state does not have resources for implementing the welfare schemes in the manifesto. Kerala’s problem is lack of effective financial management. The LDF government did nothing for professional financial management, instead they indulged in extravaganza and PR. In the last five years, Rs 800 crore have been spent on PR work of the government. Even, during the pandemic days, the government went ahead with its PR splurge.

What would the Congress’s main pitch be in the final week of the campaign?

The government has betrayed unemployed youth, who are struggling to get a job. When hundreds of them, who figure in PSC-rank lists, were waiting to get a job, the CPM government recruited kith and kin of party leaders. In a state with 35 lakh unemployed youth, the CPM will face a backlash on this.

Kerala cannot afford this corrupt government any more. Can they point out a single major achievement as their own? The LDF government worked only for CPM workers. Who can accept the autocratic style of Vijayan? I know CPM leaders who don’t like his style of functioniong. Even the Left cannot afford him. If he comes back to power, it would lead to utter ruin of Kerala. He has nothing to talk to people about other than food kits and welfare pension.

How do you see the magnitude of the threat the BJP poses to the Congress in Kerala?

As part of its agenda of Congress-free India, the BJP has entered into a deal with the CPM in Kerala. The CPM has promised to facilitate BJP victory in a few seats as quid pro quo for helping the LDF retain power… Why are senior leaders of the CPM and BJP silent on what former Organiser editor R Balashankar said about their deal in Kerala? In the local body elections too, this deal was evident. The voting pattern in local body elections stands testimony to that.

There is a rift between Muslims and Christians, both considered Congress vote banks.

It is time the minority communities stand united against the pan-Indian agenda of the BJP. The party and CPM have been trying to put a wedge between Muslims and Christians. The BJP can grow in Kerala only by splitting the secular vote. Once the Congress is finished in Kerala, the BJP will grow. It is a dangerous scheme. But, minorities in Kerala are not foolish to fall into that trap.

This time, you are fighting without your long-term ally Kerala Congress (M).

That will not affect our prospects. In the local body elections, the KC(M) could not make any impact. We are drawing good crowds in Central Kerala campaigns, particularly for Rahul Gandhi’s events. That crowd will translate into votes for the UDF.

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