It is ‘Goonda Raj’ in Kerala, says Leader of Opposition Satheeshan

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Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly and senior Congress leader V.D. Satheeshan claims that under the CPM-led Left Democratic Front, the state has become a place inflicted with gangs, and criminals are ruling the roost and killing people at the drop of a hat.

In a interview to IANS, he also ruled out any rift with state party chief K. Sudhakaran, or within the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

Following are excerpts.

Q: In the ongoing session of the Assembly, you had lashed out against the Chief Minister and said that he has failed miserably to contain the spree of killings and presence of goondas in the state. Please elaborate?

A: Kerala is slowly but surely turning into one dominated by goondas and gangs who are on a killing spree. Two days back, a receptionist at a hotel in Thiruvananthapuram was butchered to death in broad daylight by a habitual offender. The reason was some minor friction with the receptionist while this goonda had stayed in the hotel on previous occasions. A gang of BJP/RSS men had cut off the left leg of a CPI-M worker in Thalassery, the hometown of Chief Minister and the CPI-M state secretary, and killed him. A woman who was working in a horticulture garden was stabbed to death and her gold chain snatched in the capital city.

All these show that there is something wrong with Kerala Police and the state Home Department under the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Killing spree is taking place in the state and government has failed to act.

If strong measures were taken by the police, then no one will dare to do such heinous crimes. This means that the state police have miserably failed and the Chief Minister has to owe responsibility for these killings and law and order waning in the state.

Q: You have taken a position of confrontation with Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan unlike other non-BJP ruled states where the Chief Ministers are fighting against the Governors?

A: I have not taken a position of confrontation with the Governor, instead, we at the UDF have taken a consistent position against both the state Government and the Governor based on issues. The Governor and the state government are in a ‘settlement game’. They fight against each other but they settle amongst them. This has led to illegal acts.

The first instance was the reappointment of the Kannur University Vice Chancellor and according to the Act, the Higher Education minister of Kerala as the Pro Chancellor does not have any right to seek the cancellation of the search committee appointed for the selection of a new Vice Chancellor. The university rule is also clear on the age of the VC but the Governor listened to the minister’s demand and violated both the rules. He even openly stated that he was forced to reappoint the VC and threatened that he would quit the Chancellor’s post. He did not resign as Chancellor and settled with the government. If he was firm enough on his opinion, he should have either not signed the reappointment order or he should have forced the VC to resign.

He signed the Lokayukta ordinance even after the opposition met him and apprised him of its reservations. It is to be noted that when the Lokayukta ordinance was passed in 1999, the Governor had sent it for presidential assent and if a major amendment is brought in, it should have been sent again for Presidential assent, but the Governor did not do it and signed the ordinance. This has led to a situation wherein there are no effective mechanisms to curb corruption in the state.

The Governor put pressure on the government on signing the policy address and the government yielded to it. Signing the policy address is the constitutional responsibility of the Governor and if didn’t sign there is no other option left for Arif Mohammed Khan but to resign. The above-mentioned examples will give you a clear idea of the settlement politics between the Governor and the government.

Q: The Congress and UDF were shocked at the outcome of the 2021 Assembly elections as you were gearing up for a new government as in Kerala, the LDF or UDF gains power alternatively every five years. How did you lose the elections?

A: In fact, as you said the UDF was also expecting a win as in Kerala in alternate five years people do elect the front that is in opposition. However we did not work on proper social engineering and we did not use the modern electioneering methods including election analysis, proper studies on the polls. We were also lacking even a proper election campaign and these were our undoing.

On the other hand, the Left Front led by the CPI-M was far ahead in using all the modern election tools, and the social engineering they implemented also clicked. We were expecting a victory as the possibility of people voting for an alternate government after five years was what we all thought but it did not happen. All the UDF constituents worked in tandem but ultimately the result went against us.

Another factor is that we won the 2019 general elections handsomely winning 19 of the 20 seats and we expected that the Assembly elections can be a repeat but we failed to understand that the people vote in different patterns in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Q: What are your expectations in the future for the Congress-led UDF in Kerala?

A: The first and foremost fact is to strengthen the organization at the grass-root level and this we are doing by constituting basic units of the party, the Congress Unit Committee (CUC). We have formed one such unit committee for 15 to 20 houses which will cover all the houses in the area and get a fair idea of the position of the party amongst the people of these houses. With the formation of the CUCs, the party will have basic information and this will lead in our forward journey.

Secondly, and most importantly, the secular credentials of the Congress have to be properly communicated to the people. Proper secular positioning is very important as people of this highly literate state are not communal and have rejected all the sectarian and communal ideologies… hence we have to position ourselves in a correct secular manner which is very very important. People understand clearly whether we are speaking with conviction or just superficially and in secular pitching we have to be clear and direct and this will give us all the advantage in the next elections.

Q: There are reports on some rifts emerging between you and KPCC President, K. Sudhakaran. Your comments?

A: What comments? There are no rifts between us and rather we are very close to each other and consult each other. He is the head of the party and I am heading the party legislative party. Congress is a democratic party and if there are any differences of opinion on issues, leaders speak on it in party forums and as far as the KPCC President and myself are concerned, there are no differences of opinion.

Q: How about the senior leaders of the Congress party like former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and former Minister Ramesh Chennithala?

A: Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala are senior leaders of the Congress and as, I said earlier, we are all part of a big family. Congress is united and all the senior leaders are for uniting and for a resurgence of the party in Kerala.

Q: Congress has an umbrella alliance with several political parties in the UDF format. Is the relationship with all the alliance partners well and good even after the drubbing in two consecutive Assembly elections?

A: Congress is having an excellent relationship with all its alliance partners. We give all the respect to our alliance partners and in the UDF meetings, we have serious discussions and there are diverse opinions and leaders express opinions that may be contradictory to what we speak. However in the end, all our meetings are for the betterment of UDF and to wage a political war against the CPI-M government in the state and to win it.

Q: What is the situation of BJP in Kerala?

A: Kerala is a secular state and the sectarian ideology and politics of divide practiced by the BJP have no takers. Even after the state President of the BJP contested two seats, he could not win. In 2016, the BJP won the Nemom Assembly seat for the first time in history with the veteran leader and former Union minister, O. Rajagopal winning the seat. However, in the 2021 Assembly elections, the BJP lost even that seat and they drew a blank. This is the victory of the people of Kerala and BJP in Kerala is going down politically.

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