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August 19, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ E K Nayanar

'Our aim is to defeat the BJP government'

E K Nayanar was basking in the glory of not just completing three years as the chief minister of Kerala but also becoming the longest serving chief minister of his state. When Shobha Warrier met him at his home one evening, he was casually dressed in a lungi and a banian and was very relaxed.

'I was amazed at his memory,' recalls Shobha. 'He still had not forgotten what I had asked him when I first met him at his rented house more than five years ago, when he was leader of the Opposition. I had asked him about the statue of Lord Krishna which adorned the front yard of his house. Later, when I met him after he became chief minister, he mentioned the statue. This time also, he said unforgivingly, "I remember, you not only questioned the presence of the statue but also wrote about it".'

You have just completed three years in office, and the list of the government's achievements has appeared in all the newspapers. In this context, let me ask you, does the Opposition have any role in the ruling party's success?

The Opposition calls our success day as a 'black day' and they are boycotting all our functions.

But do they have any role in your successes?

Do they have a role? No. But they should have a role in all the developmental activities. In 1996, under the guidance of (the late) EMS (Namboodiripad), we had convened an all-party conference, and all the leaders including A K Antony and P K Vasudevan Nair had participated in it. It was only after forming an all-party committee that all the developmental activities in the state were started.

Please remember, as far as developmental activities are concerned, there is no difference in the opinion of various parties. If you take Malappuram district, the Muslim League heads the committee, in Kottayam, the Kerala Congress looks after everything and it is the Marxist party which heads the committee in the Malabar region. That means all the parties are involved in the development of the state.

Even then some leaders were apprehensive. At the meeting itself, Antony wanted to know whether the Opposition parties would have any role in the activities or not. EMS told him that forming such a committee was an experiment, an experiment that was not followed or implemented in any other state in India. So, for the first time in India, we decided to start the developmental activities at the lower level itself. That means, everything starts at the village panchayat level. After the panchayat, we have blocks, municipalities, corporations and finally the (state) government.

Antony said they wanted to be a constructive Opposition...

But they are not. It has been proved that they are not constructive at all.

But he has complained that the government has not invited them or let them participate in developmental activities.

Actually, they have adopted a negative attitude after we have succeeded on many fronts. You take August 15 for example. How would it be if the Opposition boycotted the Independence Day celebrations? They are doing the same thing now. It is not constructive to be non-co-operative to a government that has completed three years. We are in the Opposition in Parliament. Won't you call us non-co-operative if we boycotted the Independence Day celebrations?

We came to power in the state because the majority of the people voted for us, and now our government has completed three years. Is it right on the Opposition's part not to participate in the celebrations? I would call their attitude destructive.

In his interview to Malayala Manorama, Antony has said...

( Interrupts) Yes, I know what he has said. I also read the interview. Do you think I don't read all that?

He has complained that your government mixed developmental activities with politics.

They feel that way because they have a negative attitude to the LDF government. What is there to complain when all the parties are there in our panchayats, in the block committees and in the zilla councils? Do you know there are zilla councils here, where the Congress is in a majority! Their attitude now is like the attitude of the terrorists groups in 1947. Those terrorists boycotted the August 15 celebrations! That is why I describe the present attitude of the opposition as destructive.

I just cannot accept their point of view. They call this day the day of treachery. They are the people who have cheated, not us. Had we cheated, the people would not have voted us to power. Then they would have been ruling and not us.

How do you think the people of Kerala would react to the attitude of the Congress?

I have been presiding over many functions and I know the feelings of the people. The people are against them. We have organised public meetings, seminars, sports activities, etc in the state but they do not want to be a part of any of this.

Let me ask you, what about the states ruled by the Congress? Yes, they have only six states out of 26 now. If all the Opposition parties boycotted their functions, would they be able to celebrate there? It is only because of this negative, destructive attitude that they have only six states now. Soon they will be even more isolated and will lose those six states too. See what has happened to the Congress now. With Sharad Pawar walking out of the Congress, they will lose Maharashtra also.

But it seems the people of Kerala are not happy with either the LDF or the UDF. They have never voted the same government back to power again.

That is because the people of Kerala are not that politically aware. We have to make them more aware. Don't you know, we have been ruling for the last 20 years in West Bengal?

But the people may be frustrated with the way both the governments are functioning. Wouldn't that be a reason why nobody got a second consecutive chance?

That is not the only reason. They have to be politically aware. See, I have got a chance to rule five times. That means we have been elected to power five times. In the last 42 years, the Left Front has ruled for 13, 14 years, and the rest of the time, the Congress had been ruling. Even after ruling the state for so many years, they are isolated. Why? If they had served the state, they would have continued as they have had more years in power.

But in recent years, people have been experimenting with both the fronts.

In all the six by-elections that have taken place in the last three years, we have won. What does that mean? That means the people are happy with the way we are functioning in the last three years. We also won the Ernakulam seat which we had lost ten times before.

So, you are hopeful of getting a second chance after you compete these five years?

Yes, that is what our opinion is. Why do we have to wait for five years? Let us have an election now and we are confident that we will win.

Shall I ask you something about the BJP government? The moment the BJP government was sworn in, Sitaram Yechuri and many other Communist leaders said their main aim was to topple the BJP government.

It is not Sitaram Yechuri's opinion. It is the decision taken by the party. We have no individual decisions. Only the party takes decisions. I do not want to comment on the opinion of the individuals.

As a spokesperson, he said the party's aim was to topple the government. Was it right?

Yes, we wanted to topple the BJP government because it was a communal government. We do not agree with communal governments. Communal governments are against the Constitution of India.

But they got the maximum number of seats.

So what? The question was not about seats or numbers. Our approach or policy was to defeat the BJP government because it was against the Constitution. Constitutionally we should have only secular, democratic governments. That is the policy of our party. And if any communal government got installed here, we would oppose it tooth and nail.

You talked about constructive opposition earlier. The people's mandate was for the BJP. Were they not elected to rule?

Didn't I tell you our policy was against communal governments? Whether they are elected or not, whether they get the maximum number of seats or not, when we are in the Opposition, our aim is to defeat the BJP government. You should understand the meaning of the word 'policy'. What can I do if you do not know that! You should have the ability to understand what we mean by the policy of a party is.

What I did not understand was how could you have a policy to defeat a democratically elected government.

When the party has a policy, nothing or nobody can change that. No questions are asked after the party adopts a policy. That is why I said you do not know what the policy of a party is. If you do not know the Malayalam word for policy, it will be difficult for me to explain. There is no question of any constructive opposition once the party adopts a policy.

Your party also wanted to support a Congress-led government at the Centre.

The Congress supported us twice before and we were ready to support the Congress if they could form a government in place of the BJP. You do not know the conditions of our support.

It was issue based.

Yes, it was only issue based.

In West Bengal and Kerala, the Congress is your enemy. So, isn't it contradictory to support the same Congress party at the Centre.

That is your opinion and you can write that. Our policy was to remain a constructive opposition against communalism. If you don't agree to that policy of ours, go ahead and write your opinion. But we will oppose it.

Won't it be difficult for you to face the people here?

You need not worry about our difficulties. We can manage that.

Won't the people ask you about your party's contradictions?

You do not have to worry about the people. We will see that. Your role is to write in the paper.

But am I also not part of the people?

No, you are not. You are only a part of a business enterprise. No paper is neutral. Every paper has an interest and every paper is a party paper. Our paper also is not neutral because we are fighting for a socialist economy. You are also not neutral. You are for private interest. You are only a paid employee; you are only a mere tool of the paper. So, you cannot have a neutral opinion. We also do not have.

Take for example, Malayala Manorama. It belongs to K M Mathew, a monopoly capitalist. Do we have a neutral paper here? I know all the 20 papers that we have here. Like the others, you are also a tool of the paper that you represent. I tell this to all the other journalists. You want answers to your questions, which you will sell eventually.

See, I was also an editor for 25 years. I know that nobody has a neutral opinion. You will take what you want from this interview and publish it. Let me ask you, can you write it, if I say the Congress lost in 20 states because of misrule?

Of course, we can.

No, you can't. You paper won't publish that sentence. You will delete this portion and publish the rest because you are only a mere tool of the paper. If you have any misgivings about neutrality, remove all that from your mind. I know all this. You cannot have an ideology that is different from your paper.

Can an employee of Manorama survive by writing differently from what K M Mathew wants? Can an employee of Mathrubhumi write differently from what Veerendra Kumar wants? He will be out if he writes what he wants. So, you also will be out if you write what you want. So, you better write what your editor wants you to.

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