'Congress is on the defensive about scams and corruption charges.'
'The media is against the UPA.'
'The Nehru family is not just another family; it is a national wealth.'
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy speaks to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier in an exclusive interview.
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy is busy these days and that's not because he is out campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.
Kerala votes on April 10. Yet Chandy, right, below, looks relaxed and confident as most surveys have indicated that the Congress-led United Democratic Front is in an advantageous position over the Left Democratic Front.
National surveys and opinion polls say the people are fed up of the corruption they have seen in recent times.
Of course, I have been following all the pre-poll surveys. I get the feeling that the media is against the UPA government. The media, especially the visual media, wants controversies all the time. So, they create news.
What about the scams that are being exposed almost everyday?
I agree there are some allegations, but have you not noticed the attitude of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Union government to all the scams and allegations?
The government took very strong steps against corruption. A Union minister was in jail for two years.
All the so-called influential people like MPs, senior officials and businessmen were sent to jail.
My question is, did anyone see the prime minister or the Union government protecting the culprits?
Action against the guilty was taken not because of any directive from the court or any commission; they were all taken by the government.
Do you agree that the image of the Congress and the UPA is not very good because of corruption in high places?
That is because the Congress never did any publicity! In fact, we are lacking in that department.
In my opinion, the actions of the UPA against the culprits, whether it was Suresh Kalmadi, (A) Raja or Kanimozhi, should have been a plus point for the Congress and the government.
Unfortunately, the Congress is on the defensive about the scams and corruption charges when we should have utilised the opportunity to highlight our high moral stance. We should have been saying loudly that we have been against corruption.
Yes, we admit that some people did wrong things, which should have been avoided. But we never protected them; instead we made them face the law.
When you start campaigning, if people ask you about corruption, what will you tell them?
I know people are against corruption. The CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) is talking about clean politics, but what kind of politics are they indulging in?
Their party secretary (Pinarayi Vijayan) is involved in a serious corruption case and is a culprit in the court of law after the CBI enquiry. But he is still the party secretary.
So, the CPI-M is talking about corruption when they themselves are corrupt.
The UDF sent this particular case to the CBI, but when the LDF came to power they opposed the decision to involve the CBI. Why? To protect the party secretary.
The government spent Rs 4 crores to bring lawyers from the Supreme Court to Kerala to argue for the party secretary so that the case did not go to the CBI.
How can a government spend so much money for the party secretary? Can you cite any such incident from our side?
Will corruption be the most important issue in Kerala also?
More than corruption, violent politics perpetuated by the LDF will be the major issue here.
People of Kerala want to live in a peaceful atmosphere.
Law and order is the major concern of our people.
Criminalisation of politics and politicising murder cases are other issues. Of course, corruption and price rise are also there.
What about the decision to implement the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats? It is a major issue in the hilly areas of Kerala.
It is a major issue, I admit. Environmental issues affect Kerala as it is thickly populated.
In the coastal areas, if it is the issue of the Coastal Regulation Zone, it is the fate of paddy fields in the Kuttanad area.
We are ready to protect the environment. We are anxious about it.
Development is today's issue, but protection of the environment is for tomorrow... for the next generation.
What have you done about the Kasturirangan report?
We have written to the central government. The report marked 123 villages in Kerala as ecologically sensitive areas.
But their (the Kasturirangan committee) studies are done by remote sensing.
Our people did ground level verification of all the villages and gave a mapping to the central government, and they have accepted it in total.
Will the report adversely affect the Congress in the hilly areas?
It will not. In fact, it will help us.
We are expecting a notification in the next two days and once it comes, people will be happy. They will appreciate our government as it is happening due to the UDF government's intervention.
Will we see a Third Front or party emerging in Kerala like the BJP or the Aam Aadmi Party?
No, never. There is no space for any other front or party in Kerala.
Most opinion polls have said that more than 50 per cent of the people preferred Narendra Modi as the next prime minister and Rahul Gandhi was way behind in acceptance...
The people of India stand for secularism. When the real campaign starts, the focus of the election will be centred around secularism and nothing else.
All the confusion will change after that.
Modi is talking about development in all his campaigns, and he promises the kind of development he has done in Gujarat, all over India...
What kind of development do you see in Gujarat? What is Gujarat's position today? He is talking about some development activities somewhere, but what is the progress of the rural population?
On the other hand, the UPA has done a lot for the rural population.
As per the survey by the India Today magazine, Gujarat stands at the 5th position while Kerala is at number one.
Do you think Rahul Gandhi as a leader has failed? He campaigned in UP, Bihar during the assembly elections, but the results were disastrous.
Rahul will emerge as a major political leader in this election. There is no doubt about it.
Till now, he has not come into mainstream Indian politics; he has kept himself away.
He was concentrating only on youth and other party activities. Though there was so much pressure on him to be a minister and campaign all over India, he was not interested.
It will change now.
Why is it that the Congress party depends so much on this one family and not allow any other leader to come up?
The Nehru family is not just another family; it is a national wealth.
Every Indian should be proud of this family. This family cannot be separated from the country.
Both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed their lives for the unity of this country.
You cannot see such sacrifices anywhere in the world.
People of India are very attached to this family and that will count a lot this time too.
Kerala has a special kind of love for this family and the Congress party, and you will see it when the election results are out.
Main Image: Rahul Gandhi at a meeting with Koli fishermen in Mumbai. Photograph: Sahil Salvi.