Exclusive: 'Attitude of Christian community towards BJP has changed'
Kerala BJP President K Surendran speaks exclusively to Asianet Newsable's Yacoob on the party's prospects in the April 6 assembly election.
Kerala BJP President K Surendran is confident that the party would perform way better than it did in the last election. That he believes will be made possible by the Left Front government's corrupt ways and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pro-people policies.
The BJP's candidate from Manjeshwar and Konni constituencies spoke exclusively to Asianet Newsable's Yacoob.
Politics in Kerala has been about the UDF and the LDF. How is BJP hoping to make major inroads as far as vote share is concerned?
Actually, there was a bipolar contest in the last 60 years. But after the 2019 Lok Sabha, our vote share has increased. Even in 2016, our vote share had increased from 6 (per cent) to 16 (per cent). And after that now, in all assembly segments, there will be a strong triangular fight this time.
How far has the Sabarimala issue worked in your favour?
Sabarimala issue is still alive. Two days back, minister Kadakambally Surendran said that the incident was... in a way he apologetically gave a statement. After that, CPI-M National General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and now (chief minister) Pinarayi Vijayan himself said that no need for an apology was needed, 'our stand is very clear politically'. So Sabarimala is still an issue. Immediately after the Lok Sabha election, CPI-M leaders and the Left Front are trying to change their stand. The affidavit in the Supreme Court is still there. Definitely, people will discuss this issue in this election.
RSS ideologue and former Organiser editor R Balashankar has alleged that the BJP's state leadership has reached a tacit understanding with the CPM to ensure your victory. How do you respond?
No, no. The statement by Balashankar... he actually wanted the seat in the Chengannur constituency and I think he left Chengannur 50 year ago. He was there in BJP Delhi (central leadership circle). Party workers from the Chengannur constituency and NDA suggested another name of our district president Gopakumar. The state party election committee had recommended three names, including Gopakumar and Balashankar. The central election committee selected Gopakumar. So this is desperate. He (Balashankar) is a little bit desperate... denial of ticket. It's an emotional (laughs), not a serious allegation.
How big a role does the caste equation play? Is the BJP relying on a Nair-Ezhava-Christian combination?
There was the apprehension that always Kerala BJP is an upper-class dominated party. For the last five-six years, the OBC, Ezhavas Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and all other backward communities are gradually coming with BJP. Now the vote share of Ezhavas and SC/ST's is increasing day by day (in BJP's favour). Christain community is almost fed up with these two fronts (LDF, UDF). BJP is adequately in a relationship with the Christian community. By and large, this is a promising factor in this election.
The Jacobite Church seems to have thrown its weight behind the BJP. How will that impact your performance?
That (anti-Christian sentiment) won't affect much I think. The Christian community in general is with BJP. Pro-people and development works of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is helping (in gaining) interest. The attitude of the Christian community has already changed.
E Sreedharan has entered active political although he has ideas and aspirations. How will his presence improve your party's performance?
Definitely, his credibility and integrity are very high and people, in general, accept his leadership because his track record is that much interesting. The common man thinks E Sreedharan's leadership is required in a corrupt and underdeveloped Kerala. These fronts (LDF and UDF) are in neck-deep corruption. As far as development is concerned, Kerala is the most underdeveloped state... unemployment and lack of industries. So his leadership will definitely be helpful to the BJP this time.
There was some confusion over naming Sreedharan as the chief ministerial candidate. What happened there?
Normally, there is no such tradition in the BJP of announcing a chief minister before the election. The central and state parties, we are in a consensus that if we are able to form a government definitely we will choose E Sreedharan as our chief minister.
Surveys have indicated a return of the LDF government in Kerala. What do you have to say?
Many surveys in Kerala, especially Malayalam TV channels connected with this C-voter and others, predicted that Rahul Gandhi will come back to power with 350 seats. What happened? Surveys can do prediction but they are not people's original views. So I don't believe in surveys. Many times surveys go wrong. Once Tamil Nadu (surveys) predicted a complete sweep for DMK, but then Amma (Jayalalithaa) came to power with a two-third majority in the state.
What are the key highlights of your election manifesto?
Mainly the corruption issue. We will have a corruption-free like Modiji's government. There are issues pertaining to unemployment, social justice, vote bank politics, temple, Devaswom board and love jihad that we are raising. On issues like development, manpower and higher education Kerala is always neglected. As far as the development is concerned, nothing is there. No industry, no agricultural production or finance management -- all these things are very, very poor in Kerala. We are going with a tag line 'A New Kerala'. We are focusing on new Kerala with Modiji.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his government's image has taken a beating with the gold smuggling case. However, the ruling party claims that this is part of the BJP's desperate ploy. What are your thoughts on this?
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself wrote a letter to Prime Minister. He requested that there should be a detailed inquiry with help from central agencies. Now, Customs and ED came. During the probe, many evidence and facts were coming out. Now Pinarayi Vijayan and the Left government is stating that it is a politically-motivated inquiry and there is a central government's political agenda. This won't work out because agencies are doing their work. The state government went to the high court and tried to sabotage and threaten the probe agencies. CPI-M always does that. When CBI officers came to probe murder cases five years ago, they did the same. CPI-M's hypocrisy is very much out in the open.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has alleged that there is an unholy political nexus between Congress and BJP in Kerala. He has also said that communal overtures of both BJP and Congress have emerged in the campaign. How do you respond to these charges?
What is happening in Bengal and Tamil Nadu? He (Pinarayi Vijayan) is the Polit Bureau member of the CPM party. That is his party's national policy. Congress and CPI-M are openly tieing up. They are fighting in Bengal as common friends. Beyond the Walayar check-post, the Congress party and CPI-M are in an open alliance. In the last election in Kerala, I lost Manjeshwaram by 89 votes. What was the reason? The Congress, UDF and LDF joined hands (to ensure that). In many gram panchayats and municipalities, there is an open understanding between Congress and CPI-M. So, this is a baseless allegation. Actually, the understanding is between Congress and CPI-M.