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|April 18, 2001||
The Rediff Interview/ V S Achuthanandan
For decades, Achuthanandan has remained a loyal soldier of the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Failures, he claims, have not made him a recluse. But instilled in him, hope and abundant political energy.
That may be why the CPI-M decided to project Achuthanandan as the party's best bet to replace Chief Minister E K Nayanar, who is staying away from next month's assembly election because of his age.
But will Achuthanandan succeed in taking the Left Democratic Front to victory? The odds are many -- the incumbency factor, frequent political violence in northern Kerala, crash in the prices of agricultural produces and recession in industrial growth and information technology.
Yet Achuthanandan is not worried. In an exclusive interview to Senior Associate Editor George Iype, he predicts an easy victory for the LDF against the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala.
How does it feel to go back to the people after five years of CPI-M rule in Kerala?
We are going to the people with a successful progress card. Therefore, we are not worried. When we ousted the UDF government in 1996, it was the people's verdict against a corrupt regime. It was the people's victory against a communal government.
Forty people had died of communal clashes in Kerala during the last Congress rule. But look at our progress card now. There has not been any communal violence in Kerala in the last five years. Not even a single case of corruption has been slapped against any of our ministers or MLAs. The people are aware of our clean government. So they will vote us to power once again.
Despite these claims, Kerala lags behind in many crucial sectors like industrial development and information technology compared to other southern states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Don't you think the Nayanar government has been a failure in getting investment into the state?
It is a lie spread by other states that Kerala is lagging behind in information technology and industrial development. The technopark in Trivandrum is one of the finest IT destinations in India. We are setting up three more such technoparks in the state. We have started many new small power projects that Kerala is the only state in the country today that can boast of full-fledged electricity generation. There are no power cuts here.
Industrial development will happen now. Look at the tourism sector. Today, Kerala is the best-known destination for tourism in the country only because of our government. Tourism directly and indirectly employs more than one million people in Kerala. I would say the Kerala development model that we have introduced is the best one in India today.
Farmers in Kerala are upset with your government because the prices of most agricultural products have plummeted.
We are not to be blamed for the crash in the prices of agricultural products. The state government launched many programmes to assist the farmers who have been badly hit by the mindless globalisation policies of the central government. It is not Kerala alone that has been hit.
Farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are committing suicide because they do not have any means of livelihood. The anti-farmer policies of the central government has led to a loss of Rs 6,000 crore for the Kerala farmers.
The BJP and the Congress have made India a colony for foreign countries.
You said the Congress-led UDF is a communal front. But in that sense the CPI-M is in the same league because your party has chalked out a poll alliance with the Indian National League for this election.
There is a vast difference between the Congress and the CPI-M. The Congress is a communal party. It has forged alliances with communal parties like the Muslim League. It has worked out definite arrangements with the BJP and even (jailed Islamic fundamentalist leader Abdul Nasser) Madani's People's Democratic Front in the hope that they can defeat us.
We have been forced by the Congress to enter into an informal understanding the Indian National League. It is a temporary arrangement.
But that means the CPI-M has also fallen prey to communal politics, which you claim the party hates.
You should understand that our arrangement with the INL is not a formal and opportunistic one. It is an ad hoc one. We will never forge any alliance with any communal parties.
What do you think is the LDF government's most remarkable achievement?
Our achievements are numerous. No other state government has achieved the kind of overall economic and social prosperity that Kerala enjoys now. If Kerala today boasts of the best social and economic indicators, it is because of the CPI-M. The People's Plan policy that we are implementing in Kerala's panchayats is the best form of rural development India has ever seen.
Don't you think your government has messed up on education and liquor policies?
Not at all. It is all a hate campaign launched by the Congress and others to somehow grab power.
Has your government not failed to keep the law and order situation under control in Kannur in northern Kerala? The CPI-M is alleged to be whipping up political violence in Kannur.
The political violence and killings in Kannur are unleashed by BJP-RSS goondas with the active support of Congress workers. Everybody knows that Kannur is our stronghold. So the BJP-RSS-Congress combine wants to break our party in Kannur by killing our workers there. We have always remained patient whenever the RSS cadres attacked and killed our workers.
But then what happens? A K Antony demands that paramilitary forces should be brought in to check violence in Kannur. Then suddenly one week later, the RSS attacks our party cadres with bombs to ensure that the Congress's call for paramilitary forces is strengthened.
It is alleged that the CPI-M is also resorting to the bomb culture in Kannur.
We are not the bomb makers. The RSS-BJP cadres are the bomb makers of Kannur. We try to be peaceful. But there is a limit to our patience. We will not allow the RSS to continue attacking our workers. I have instructed the party cadres not to resort to violence. They abide by our instructions. Booth capturing is a brand of the Congress. Violent politics is a brand of the RSS and BJP. It was limited to north India only. Now they want to bring it to states like Kerala.
How many seats do you think that the LDF will win this time?
I do not want to predict now. But I assure you that the LDF will win a comfortable number of seats to get back to the government easily. Now that senior Congress leaders Karunakaran and Antony are fighting between themselves, our victory numbers are increasing day by day.
But poll surveys have predicted that the LDF will be defeated this time.
I never read poll surveys. Our party never believes in pre-poll surveys.
Design: Dominic Xavier
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