'We are a national party that wants to remind people about Bharatiya sanskruti, which, at the moment, is being remote-controlled by an Italian lady and her agents.'
Former Union minister O Rajagopal, the BJP candidate from Thiruvananthapuram who will challenge Shashi Tharoor, speaks to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
Bharatiya Janata Party veteran O Rajagopal was the minister of state for Parliamentary affairs in the Vajpayee government.
Rajagopal, below, right, the BJP candidate from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, represented by Shashi Tharoor, met Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier before he started the day's campaign.
Kerala is one state where the BJP has not opened its account yet. Why is it that this state does not prefer any other party other than the two political fronts -- the United Democratic Front and the Left Democratic Front?
That is because of historical reasons. The Communist party became a strong force here from the 1940s. When the first elections took place in Kerala in 1957, the party had become an alternative to the Congress.
Also, Hindus constitute just 50 per cent of the population in Kerala, the other 50 per cent are Muslims and Christians.
From the beginning, the Congress, with its claims of being a secular party, has been backed by the minorities while the Hindus have been supporting the Communists. This polarisation continues.
Is it unique to Kerala?
Yes, it is unique to Kerala. It is like in Tamil Nadu where there are only two formations lead by the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).
I think a situation has come in Kerala where people are tired of these two political fronts and they want a change if they are convinced it is viable.
Why do you think the people of Kerala will look at say, the BJP as an alternative?
The realisation has come not all over Kerala, but in certain areas like Thiruvananthapuram, which is an educated constituency.
The Hindu sentiment is also strong here compared to the other parts of Kerala, mainly because it was from here that many Hindu religious leaders emerged.
Does that mean the BJP will play the Hindutva card here?
We need not talk about Hindutva when we stand for nationalism. We target anyone whose loyalty is to the country and its sanatana dharma.
Then, why do you say that in Trivandrum, the Hindu sentiment is strong?
Because of the propaganda by other parties. The BJP has been perceived by many as a Hindu party. We need not say it openly.
Does that mean you would try to woo only the Hindus?
We are a national party. Do you know during the freedom struggle, the Muslim League and the Communists described the Congress as the Hindu party?
They had said that if the Congress came to power it would be a majoritarian party which would not be in the interests of the minorities.
The BJP has the tag of a communal party...
That is how other parties describe us, as they don't have anything else to discuss. They cannot describe us as corrupt or anything like that, so they chose this description.
Anything that smacks of nationalism is communalism for them.
In the northern part of Kerala, why is it that there are so many communal clashes between the Left and the Right?
I would not call it communal violence, it is political violence. The Communists are using violence to fight their political rivals whether it is the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) or the BJP, or the Congress.
Violence is their philosophy and thinking. The concept of non-violence is not on their agenda.
Whom do you consider as your rival, the Communist or the Congress?
It depends on the constituency. The influence of the Communist party is slowly waning all over the country including in Kerala. This is the stark reality they are not ready to accept.
In the 1st Lok Sabha elections in 1951, the Communists won from 13 states on their own and they became the leading Opposition party. A K Gopalan was the Leader of the Opposition. Now, they have only 2 states -- Kerala and West Bengal.
We are a national party that wants to remind people about Bharatiya sanskruti, which, at the moment, is being remote-controlled by an Italian lady and her agents. I am telling this frankly.
What will be the major issue in Kerala on which elections will be fought? When I interviewed the chief minister, he said political violence would be the major issue, as the people of Kerala were tired of violence and wanted peace.
His political rival in Kerala is the Left Front and the Left Front is left with the Marxists, and their imprint is violence. So, he is all the time speaking about violence.
There is definite understanding between the corrupt leaders of the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
We represent the nationalist thinking in Kerala. The stock of the Congress is coming down, and our assessment -- all the polls say that -- the BJP under the leadership of (the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra) Modi is sure to come to power.
In such a situation, in the interest of Kerala, somebody from Kerala should also be available to represent the state. I hope this is something people will understand.
They know that when the Vajpayee government was in power I was in the ministry. The people of Kerala will remember how the state benefited during that period.
So if they send all the MPs to oppose, who will talk for the state? How will it benefit Kerala?
People talk about the 2002 Gujarat riots whenever they mention Modi. Don't you think it will remain a blot on Narendra Modi?
They talk about it all the time. But after 2002, the state that used to have 3, 4 communal riots every year has not had a single communal clash.
Why has Modi not apologised for what had happened in 2002?
Why should he apologise?
You apologise when you do something wrong. He hasn't done anything wrong.
From the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, you have an Aam Aadmi Party candidate...
Aam Aadmi Party? It's only in the newspapers.
It created waves in Delhi...
Trivandrum is not Delhi. (Social activist) Anna Hazare had conducted non-political agitations against corruption, which this gentleman (AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal), a background boy, took advantage of. He became the beneficiary of all the agitations of Anna Hazare.
Against the wishes of his guru, he formed a political party. He creates news these days, but you must understand that today's news is tomorrow's trash.
Shashi Tharoor, the sitting MP, has done quite a bit for this constituency and has also always been available to the people...
People know all the plastic boards he has pasted all over the city, listing his achievements, are just plastic claims.
According to his claims, the high court has come here, the Vizhinjam harbour too. He said, just give me one year, I will bring the high court bench here. Where is it?
On the other hand, in Tamil Nadu, they managed to bring a high court bench to Madurai. All his claims are hollow.
Image: BJP supporters in their Modi masks in Ahmedabad. Photograph: Reuters