'Kerala will witness a lot of fireworks in Wayanad and a kind of fight that it has not witnessed so far.'
Vellapally Natesan is the general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, that claims to represents the backward Ezhava community in south Kerala.
Ezhavas and their toddy tapper brethren in Malabar -- Thiyyas -- constitute approximately 20% of Kerala's Hindu population.
Natesan, also the founder of the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena, a political party, was the first politician in Kerala to make friends with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BDJS fought the 2016 Kerala assembly election as part of the National Democratic Alliance.
The BJP opened its account for the first time in the Kerala assembly and its vote share increased to 15%.
Differences soon cropped up between Natesan and the BJP, but he cooled down after his son Thushar Vellapally was appointed as the NDA convenor in Kerala.
During the Sabarimala agitation, while Thushar aligned with the BJP, his father sided with the Left a few times.
BJP national President Amit Anilchandra Shah nominated Thushar Vellapally as the NDA candidate to contest the Lok Sabha election in Wayanad against Congress national President Rahul Gandhi.
One expected Thushar's father to be happy with Shah's decision, but Natesan says he has nothing to do with the BDJS, which he founded, and insists he is associated only with the SNDP now.
"50% of the voters in Wayanad are Hindus and the minority communities constitute around 40% to 42%. If the minority votes get consolidated and the Hindu votes get divided, it will be difficult for the NDA," Natesan tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com.
When the first list of NDA candidates came out, Thushar was the candidate from Thrissur. But when Rahul Gandhi decided to contest from Wayanad, he has been nominated to contest against him.
Was it to give a tough fight to Rahul Gandhi that your son's constituency was changed?
I am not the right person to answer the question. You have to ask Amit Shah as he was the person who declared Thushar as the candidate for Wayanad.
Are you not satisfied with the change in the constituency?
It is not a question of my satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Since the BDJS is a part of the NDA in Kerala, it is a decision taken by them, and I have nothing to do with it.
Thushar Vellapally thanked Amit Shah for making him the NDA candidate in Wayanad.
It is but natural for him to thank Amit Shah as a big leader like him praised Thushar a lot in the tweet.
When someone praises you, you thank the person back. Is that not normal practice?
When we spoke in 2017, you complained that the BJP did not act on the promises it had made. Has your opinion changed now?
I still maintain that they did not give us adequate importance at that time.
You are talking as if you are not happy with the BJP even now...
I am not part of the NDA right now. I am not a member of the BDJS also.
I am not involved with the activities of the BDJS. I take care of the social activities of the SNDP only.
Members of the SNDP have affiliation with all parties, not just the BDJS which is a political party.
But you started the party...
Yes, I started the party and we had organised a yatra throughout Kerala at that time.
The objective of the yatra was to give social justice to all those who were denied it all these years, and unite people from all social classes -- from Nayadi to Namboodiri.
Why did you decide to move away from the BDJS?
Of course, I started the party, but let the new blood take over what I had started.
You are confident that your son will take the party in the right direction?
He is an adult with his own political views and he will do what he thinks is right. I am not one to comment or decide on whether or where he has to contest the elections. It is purely his decision.
You said your intention was to unite all Hindus -- from Nayadi to Namboodiri. Do you think the Sabarimala issue united the Hindus of Kerala?
Nobody has been able to unite all the Hindus even today.
When Sabarimala became an issue, some political leaders started prayers (naama japam) and tried to take this up as a major political plank alienating those who have been working towards achieving such a unity for years.
Yes, people like us were sidelined by them. In fact, they did not even have any discussions with us.
Are you talking about BJP leaders in Kerala?
Not all BJP leaders, but some BJP leaders.
That was when I decided to speak. I said, 'We are not against prayers (naama japam) and we are also not against the Sabarimala issue'. But I warned them not to make it political.
On the Sabarimala issue, you took a stand that was different from what was taken by your son, Thushar Vellapally. While you supported the Left, he was with the BJP.
Does that mean both of you looked at the issue from different perspectives?
While he looked at it from a political angle, I could only look at it from a social angle. That was the difference.
State BJP President Sreedharan Pillai openly said it was a political issue, but you should understand that the SNDP cannot play politics and we cannot look any issue from a political angle.
Did the Sabarimala issue help any political party?
I would admit that the BJP was able to get some advantage because of Sabarimala. The Congress has not been able to do so. It is a fact.
Will it be a pollical issue in this election?
In some areas, it will have an impact, but not all over Kerala.
In places like Pathanamthitta, it will be a major issue, but in Alapuzha, it will not have an impact.
In certain areas, it has even united the Hindus. Let me say again that it is not an all Kerala phenomenon. But this will help the BJP and not the Congress.
I am sure the BJP and the NDA will get more votes this time. There is no doubt about that.
Whose votes will be going to the NDA?
Though they will capture votes from both the Left and the Congress, they would eat from the UDF (the Congress-lef United Democratic Front) more.
For example, if they take 5% votes from the Left, they will take at least 15% from the UDF.
Does that mean the Left will not lose many seats because of the way they handled the Sabarimala issue?
When you have three cornered contests, the beneficiary will be the Left. We saw that in the 2016 assembly elections also.
In a three-cornered contest, when the NDA captures more votes, the front that gets benefitted will be the LDF (the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Democratic Front).
Do you think the NDA will win any Lok Sabha seats this time?
It is very difficult to predict as you will see very strong contests in many seats. It can go any way in those seats.
The 2019 election is not like the 2014 elections.
This time, the (Narendra Damodardas) Modi effect will play a very big role. It is not the BJP effect; only the Narendra Modi effect.
I would say this: The BJP is zero while Narendra Modi is a hero. The Modi-Shah combination is deadly.
If the NDA looks to be strong everywhere, it is only because of the impact of the Modi-Shah combination.
There is no such combination like them on the other side, they do not even have a man who can be projected as a prime minister.
More than that, the BJP workers are working quite systematically everywhere. That will result in more voting percentage.
With Rahul Gandhi deciding to contest from Wayanad, how do you see this constituency right now?
While M I Shanawas of the Congress got more than three lakh votes, the BJP candidate could get only 80,000 votes. 50% of the voters in the constituency are Hindus and the minority communities constitute around 40% to 42%.
If the minority votes get consolidated and the Hindu votes get divided, it will be difficult for the NDA.
Why did they bring Rahul Gandhi all the way from the north to the southern end? Not because they love him; everybody knows that he got scared there.
The question will be: Why all the way down here?
Do you think the voters of Wayanad will ask this question?
You should understand that there is a lot of difference between the politicians of the north and the south.
There, the voters will vote for a person who visit them like Maveli. Even if they do not have roads or electricity or any such amenities, they still do not question the politician.
But here, the voters expect the leaders to be accessible all the time. They don't like anyone who comes once in five years to ask for votes. They want someone who is there in their constituency to listen to their problems.
I do not want to talk about how Rahul Gandhi is going to fulfil the wishes of the voters of Wayanad.
When there is an understanding between the Left and the Congress everywhere, and here they are fighting against each other, you can expect the result to be advantageous to the third front.
One thing I can confidently say: Kerala will witness a lot of fireworks there (Wayanad) and a kind of fight that it has not witnessed so far.