Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been upbeat about the overwhelmingly warm response to the ongoing Navakerala Sadas, a much-publicised Cabinet outreach programme through Kerala’s 140 Assembly constituencies.
A programme that began with the objective of meeting people and explaining to them the government stand vis-à-vis matters of development, particularly the Central government stand towards Kerala, has now become a people’s juggernaut. Irrespective of socio-political affiliations, people are welcoming the Cabinet on wheels.
Sitting in the single front left seat on the special bus that carries his ministerial colleagues as well, the Chief Minister spoke to The Hindu in a candid style during his journey from Kongad to Mannarkkad on Saturday evening.
You seem to be excited in spite of the tiring programmes. What’s so special?
The overwhelming crowds that welcome us are the reason. We have succeeded in our objective. People are celebrating this programme as we convince them the State’s development. Most Keralites, irrespective of party politics, have come forward to accept us.
Navakerala Sadas is seen more as a political outreach programme before the Lok Sabha elections, rather than a grievance redressal platform as that of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy?
There is absolutely no comparison with Oommen Chandy’s programme. His was a complaints collection programme. Ours is a dialogue with the people, and not a mere complaint redressal programme. Of course, we are accepting complaints and applications from people, and officials are taking care of that. We are interacting with the public.
How about the allegations of making political mileage?
It is the United Democratic Front (UDF) that made it political. They boycotted it. They are doing everything possible to tarnish and trivialise it. But people are watching everything.
You have been accusing the Centre of choking Kerala of funds and pushing the State to financial crisis. Any strategy to circumvent this crisis?
States facing similar crisis are joining hands to fight for their rights. The Centre’s stifling moves against Kerala have to be questioned. Several States have sought legal remedies. A people’s collective opposing the Centre’s undemocratic moves is being formed slowly. Kerala is willing to take the initiative for a legal fight, if needed. Unfortunately the Congress, the main Opposition in the State and ruling party in some other States, is not cooperative. Rather it is creating hurdles.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] has been accused of using the Palestine issue to accost the Muslim community. How far has it succeeded?
We conducted Palestine solidarity rallies not to woo Muslims. Supporting Palestine means opposing American imperialism. Israel, with unadulterated American support, is an arm of American imperialism. Narendra Modi’s aim is to appease America. That’s why he is cosying up to Israel. Soon after the Hamas attack, Mr. Modi said that India was with Israel. That was Modi’s policy, the Sangh Parivar policy, not the policy of India. Apart from the Left, how many in India rallied for Palestine? Even the Congress took a long time to plan a rally. Most parties are trying to cosy up to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Is Kerala becoming an unfriendly State for big industries?
Not at all. We are encouraging industries. But we want industries that suit our State. We don’t have much land as other States. But we are supporting new ventures. Against a target of one lakh ventures in one year, we could achieve 1.40 lakh ventures. We are now trying to convert each venture into a ₹100-crore investment project. And we will have 1,000 such ventures.
What about the allegation of eminent sportspersons leaving the State because of neglect?
It is not a fact. One or two persons leaving should not be viewed as a general trend. We are encouraging our sportspersons.
Do you expect the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) to join the LDF?
Not at all. The Muslim League is a major UDF constituent. There is a section working for the UDF to come back to power in the State. Among them are a few media houses. They are worried about the situation when the IUML deserts the UDF. They are spreading speculations about the IUML. The Muslim League, actually, has never thought about leaving the UDF. And the LDF is in a solid position, and it is not desperate as to seek the entry of the IUML.
Is the IUML communal?
It’s an old question. The Muslim League does not represent minority communalism. It is known to everyone. Often they take strong stand against minority communalism. I’m saying this not to appease or coax the IUML.
The Opposition described your face-off with the Governor/Chancellor as a cat-and-mouse game. What do you say?
It is sad to see the Opposition response when the Governor and his followers question the democratic integrity of our system. The UDF MPs should have rallied for the State government in Parliament.
Do you think you have won over some religious organisations, particularly the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, which has traditionally been aligned with the Muslim League?
Our approach to religious groups and organisations has been direct. We don’t want intermediaries and ambassadors to interact with them. We deal with their leaders directly. I think it has improved the social milieu in the State.