'When you talk badly of the country and project a bad image of the country to the rest of the world, is it not sedition?'
E Sreedharan, is the architect behind the Konkan Railway, the Delhi and Kochi Metros.
On February 19, the 88 year old announced his decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. He even spoke about becoming the next chief minister of Kerala if the BJP won the assembly elections due in a few weeks' time.
In the first part of a revealing interview to Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com, Sreedharan declares, "I have sympathy for the BJP for quite some time."
What made you take the decision to join politics now?
All these years I have been discharging my professional responsibilities entrusted on me by various government agencies, and the last responsibility will be over by the 5th of March.
I felt even after that, my experience and my talent should be available to the people of Kerala.
I also feel a lot has to be done in Kerala, and the only way to render one's services is through politics.
This is the reason why I decided to join politics.
When the BJP came to power in 2014, the party kept away senior leaders like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, etc saying they were past 75. You are 88 and you have joined the BJP.
See, that benchmark was set by the central government and not by the state level BJP.
At 88, I still have a lot of energy, a lot of stamina and my faculties are excellent even now. So, why waste it? (laughs)
Why the BJP?
The main reason is, Kerala has been ruled by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Communist-led Left Democratic Front for the last several years. I find a lot of corruption cases and a lot of scandals against both the fronts, and real benefit has not reached the state.
Each party has only tried to improve its image all these years, and not that of the state. So, I was not interested in those two parties.
And I have sympathy for the BJP for quite some time.
By sympathy, do you mean ideologically you are in tune with what they believe in?
Yes, absolutely. That's why I decided to join the BJP.
The criticism is that the BJP's ideology is based on polarisation of people. Do you agree with this?
I don't agree with the criticism that the BJP's ideology is based on polarisation. Those charges are most unfounded. This is because they don't like the BJP government at the Centre. So, whatever the BJP does, they give a different twist to it.
People belonging to the BJP love their country and they want the country to progress.
All of us know that India has people belonging to different religions, and if the country has to progress, everybody has to progress.
I don't think it is correct to give the BJP the image of a party that polarises people. If you work closely with them, you will know this allegation is not true. They are only interested in the welfare of the country. They have only love for the country
Do you think they are more patriotic and love the country more than other political parties?
Certainly, I feel so. Otherwise, why are they opposing whatever the BJP is doing for the good of the country? They oppose everything the BJP does.
Today, when someone criticises some of the policies of the government, it is perceived by them as the criticism of the country. They even press sedition charges against those who oppose them.
Would you agree with the sedition charges against people like Shashi Tharoor and other activists?
When you talk badly of the country and project a bad image of the country to the rest of the world, is it not sedition?
I am not talking about Shashi Tharoor at all.
I am talking about those who unnecessarily vilify the country to the whole world. Is it not sedition?
Is it sedition?
Yes, it is sedition. Projecting the country in a wrong way is sedition.
In a democracy, can people not express their opinion?
Expressing your opinion freely is everyone's right. Everybody is entitled to express his or her views. That is guaranteed by the Constitution. But if that is being misused against the country, it cannot be tolerated or accepted.
Your comments on eating non-vegetarian food has become a topic of discussion now...
Why should anybody have problem with my choice? I am a strict vegetarian and that was how I was brought up. Me being a strict vegetarian doesn't throw any bad light on others.
But it was reported that you didn't like others eating non-vegetarian food...
I have never said that. My words were twisted. I only said, I am a strict vegetarian and personally I don't support non-vegetarian food. But I don't find fault with those who eat non-vegetarian food. It is a personal choice, and I can't comment on somebody else's choice.
If I say I am a strong Hindu, it doesn't mean I will not tolerate any other religion.