Congress Working Committee Member, former Kerala Chief Minister and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony says that the resurgence of Congress at the national level is on the cards and the results of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu Assembly elections where the Congress will win will spur this process.
In an interview to IANS, the veteran Congress leader recalled that in Kerala, the United Front government of the Congress and the CPI had come to power in 1970 after the Congress split of 1969 and this victory acted as a catalyst for the party to come back to power at the national level.
Antony also ruled out the possibility of the CPI-M-headed Left Democratic Front retaining power in Kerala or the BJP making any headway there.
Here are excerpts of the interview.
Q: A.K. Antony generally travels across Kerala as part of electioneering but this time around you are confined to party office. Why?
A: I was affected by Covid-19 and was admitted to AIIMS for 17 days. After that, doctors advised me complete rest and hence, I could travel to Kerala only now. Doctors have told me not to travel across the state and to limit my travels as it is dangerous to health. Hence, I am confined to my home and party office.
Q: Will there be a comeback of the LDF government in Kerala?
A: No, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government will not come back to power. There are two reasons for it… one is that if the CPI-M-led front comes back to power, no one will be able to contain the arrogance and autocracy of the party and its leaders. The people of the country have seen what had happened in West Bengal after the three decades of Left Front government there. If the LDF government comes back to power in Kerala, the same thing will be repeated and the CPI-M and the LDF will not be able to be controlled even by the party Politburo.
Q: What are the chances of the UDF government coming to power?
A: UDF government is a certainty after the coming Assembly elections and we don’t have any doubts on the front coming back to power. The UDF has always been like this. The Congress and UDF will come back to power and this will be a resurgence for the Congress at the Central level. In 1969, the Congress party split at the national level and in the 1970 Assembly elections, a Congress-backed government came to power in Kerala. This victory led to a resurgence of Congress at the national level and I am certain that there will be a repeat of this after this election and this victory in Kerala and Tamil Nadu will lead to a resurgence of the party at the national level.
Q: Will Sabarimala be a major issue for the UDF in the Assembly elections?
A: Congress’s main agenda is our manifesto but the Sabarimala issue has taken the centrestage after the Chief Minister’s comment that once the larger bench of the Supreme Court gives a verdict, a decision will be taken after discussions with all the people concerned and political parties. We had suggested to the Chief Minister to hold an all party meeting after the earlier Supreme Court verdict but Pinarayi Vijayan was adamant to allow young women to enter Sabarimala. He is now taking a reverse position on the same and this has led to the Sabarimala issue taking the centrestage.
Q: What are the chances of BJP in Kerala?
A: Personally speaking, the BJP is not fit for Kerala, a state with high secular credentials and with high thinking. Here, people live in close proximity to one another even though with different religious beliefs and there is no communal issues here. So I prefer an Assembly without a BJP MLA.
Q: BJP has a representative from Nemom Assembly constituency now even though you prefer a state assembly without a BJP legislator?
A: The present Nemom MLA is O. Rajagopal, a senior BJP leader. People of Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram has a sympathy factor for Rajagopal as he was continuously contesting and losing elections and hence, he won through sympathy voting. This election, Rajagopal is not contesting and the BJP will never win that seat.
Q: Kerala Congress leader Jose K. Mani has switched positions to LDF after a long stint with the UDF and is now contesting in 13 seats as part of that coalition. Your comments?
A: Jose K. Mani will understand the pitfalls of the LDF after some time. There will not be any democracy there and he will feel suffocated.
A: Kerala Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary M. Sivasankaran was arrested and put behind bars. You were the Chief Minister of Kerala for three times… what you feel on this?
A: Kerala felt ashamed on having to go through this ordeal. The Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary is a very crucial person in the ministry and government and he was jailed in the case related to gold smuggling. People are watching all these things and they will cast their verdict with all these in mind.
Q: CPI-M state Secretary A. Vijayaraghavan has said that Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala had compromised with Islamic fundamentalism when they visited the Muslim League chief Panakkad Hyder Ali Shihab Thangal. Your comments?
A: Indian Union Muslim League is a political party whose relationship with the Congress dates back to five decades and they are part and parcel of our party and our front. I don’t know what happened to the CPI-M leadership in making such unsavoury comments about such a respected political leader whose actions had always been highly secular and for the wellbeing of the Kerala society.
Q: The Congress list has several new faces. Is a major shift coming up in the Congress?
A: The Congress list consists of several young faces who have all proved their mettle in participating in agitations, braving police lathicharges, tear gas shells and taking up issues for the people of the state. These young leaders will be the face of the Congress party in the next 25 years. This does not mean that we have given a go-by to senior leaders. Senior leaders are in the team and the new faces will be groomed up in the days to come by these senior leaders.
Q: How do you rate the chances of the Congress party in Tamil Nadu?
A: The Congress-DMK front will win the 2021 Assembly elections with a huge landslide. As I said earlier, the Congress party’s victory in Kerala and Tamil Nadu will be a major catalyst for the resurgence of the party in the country.