CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is marshaling the LDF campaign in Vengara, where the party has once again fielded P.P. Basheer against IUML's K.N.A.Khader.
The CPM leader, who is of the view that Vengara is witnessing a seismic shift among the electorate who are drifting away from the IUML, talks exclusively to Onmanorama on why the ruling party stands a good chance of making a dent in a constituency considered as a bastion of the Indian Union Muslim league.
Will this by-poll be a referendum on the state government?
A by-poll is not a yardstick to gauge the performance of a government. The verdict in this by-poll is not going to affect the Pinarayi government. If we win, it will increase our seats, but if we lose, there is not going to be any decrease. If the League wins, it is not at all a news, but if the IUML loses, Vengara will hog the national spotlight. There are some constituencies like that. The League lost in Kuttipuram, which was considered an IUML bastion, in 2006. Kunhalikutty himself was the candidate then. The IUML also lost in Manjeri in 2004. In 2016, the IUML lost in its traditional Tanur constituency. This can happen in Vengara too.
Will there be an upset in Vengara?
That we can say after the polls. Vengara is like a watermelon. It is green (the color of IUML flag) when you look from outside. But when it is cut, it is red in color. Let us wait till October 15. Just because it appears green, do not think it can't have red color inside.
How has the situation changed after the Malappuram LS poll?
The situation in which Lok Sabha by-poll was held has changed now. At that time, the tide was in favor of Kunhalikutty. That Kunhalikutty is not the candidate itself is a major change. The IUML candidate is also not someone who is favored by Kunhalikutty. In these circumstances, voters think they can take an "appropriate decision." These factors favor the Left Democratic Front.
Why do you fancy a chance for the LDF in this election?
The advantage this time is the political policies of the Left and the popular initiatives of the LDF government. The LDF govt aims to bring in welfare measures to the socially backward classes and create a secular society. The voters will acknowledge these efforts. This is a constituency with a large number of NRI voters. The LDF government has initiated several measures for Non Resident Keralites (NRKs). The VS government initiated NRK Welfare Fund. It was then Rs 500 per month which was left untouched by the UDF government. The present LDF government has again raised this to Rs 2,000. The chief minister's efforts to release those Keralites who are being held prisoners abroad is a key initiative, which has been lauded by the NRKs. Even households who are traditionally with the IUML are acknowledging that the UDF government could not do much. A host of such factors are positive for the LDF in the constituency.
The issues in Vengara constituency?
In terms of development, Vengara is a backward constituency though it has been represented by big leaders. Lack of potable water is a major issue here. Those who are living in higher regions are unable to get water. No drinking water connections are being issued and the constituency has not been able to get a project to fix this. There are no adequate hospital facilities. Despite being represented by Kunhalikutty, who was industries and IT minister, the constituency doesn't have an IT park. Now, the people have started thinking about this. Earlier, they used to vote for whoever is pitch-forked by the IUML. The constituency has been made a pawn in a political game and the voters resent this now.
On the IUML candidate, K.N.A. Khader?
The IUML has not been able to gain the trust of its cadres in the issue of candidate selection. Earlier, it was just for the top leadership to decide. Unlike earlier days, an elitist caucus has hijacked the IUML. The decisions of this caucus are being implemented in the League. The ordinary cadres are fed up of these which is evident now. Earlier, there were no differing views on candidate selection and it was final. Now, things have changed. It was first thought that K.P.A. Majeed would be the candidate. Then the name of Kunhalikutty confidant Latheef emerged. Somehow Khader emerged as the candidate.
Do you think Kunhalikutty is being sidelined?
We need not view it in such a manner. Don't know how a situation emerged in which matters do not unfurl in a way Kunhalikutty or Thangal wants it to. Khader has played some trick. If not, the League would not have changed a candidate it had decided. The IUML now says Khader has been named candidate because he is an orator. The good thing about Khader's oratory is that it has brought the LDF back to power.
Will the Kerala visit of BJP's Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath polarize voters in favor of CPM?
We do not make any efforts to initiate a communal polarization. The CPM and the Left always pick up cudgels for a secular platform. Amit Shah and Yogi are spewing venom. The Indian Union Muslim League does not have the capability to tackle this. They themselves admit that they cannot take on the RSS onslaught. Then how can they defend the minorities? They cannot do this if they align with the Congress. Didn't the Babri Masjid demolition happen when the Congress was in power? The voters of Vengara are the ones who should think about all these. The thinking voters have always backed the Left.
Yogi's visit will not change anything in Kerala. The visits of such personalities have a certain agenda. Their stance is just to trigger communal clashes. They consider Muslims as their enemies. The BJP will receive a setback for bringing in such a leader during this time.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran has said there is nothing wrong in aligning with the Congress to take on the RSS. What is your stand?
That is Kanam's stance. Everyone can be coopted to fight communalism. But a political front cannot be formed on that basis. Political fronts are formed by parties, which have a similar outlook on policies. There can be common platforms like the protest against Gauri Lankesh murder. Everyone can join that. If a political front is formed on such a basis, whose policies will be implemented – the CPM's or that of the Congress? We backed the UPA in 2004. The Congress implemented its policies. That is why that experiment failed. Communalism can't be tackled with such experiment. Look at the Grand Alliance in Bihar. Now, Nitish himself has joined the BJP bandwagon.
The BJP is taking out a campaign pointing out some errors in a Facebook post by you on the marriage of certain BJP leaders from outside their own community. What do you have to say?
What I said was correct. But certain factual errors crept in about the relatives of some BJP leaders. It is better to correct factual errors when you notice it. What I said in the press conference was correct. Errors crept in on the Facebook post. But the BJP had to admit that it is not against marriages between people of different communities.