Pinarayi (north Kerala): As Kerala heads to polls on 6 April, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his Left Democratic Front (LDF) will look to break a nearly 20-year record.
Since 1982, the LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) have alternately held power in the state. Vijayan is now looking to buck this trend.
The chief minister’s prospects have been bolstered by his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the state continuously performing well on socio-economic indicators.
In this exclusive interview with ThePrint at his native village of Pinarayi, the chief minister speaks of development in the state, his poll chances, the Sangh Parivar and why secularism needs to be strengthened in the country.
Kerala has paved roads, the street-lights work at night and the people seem reasonably content and well-fed. Why is it so different from India’s northern states?
Pinarayi: Kerala is an extended city from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod. All places have all conveniences. Whether it is a village or a city, roads are good and people have got good access to amenities of life. This is the unique feature of Kerala.
Resources of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Board Fund (KIIFB) have helped improve the state’s socio-economic indicators. But how, as a Communist, are you borrowing from the market?
Pinarayi: This is not about being a Communist or Congress or BJP supporter. It is about developing our state and helping our state progress. This is not possible using just the state’s budget allocation. So, for basic infrastructure development, we had to find funds. This is why we reconstituted KIIFB.
We had promised basic infrastructure projects worth Rs 50,000 crore. But we have formulated a number of projects and schemes worth Rs 63,000 crore, including schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc… This is what the Communist party has been trying to do since 1957.
Your Finance Minister Thomas Isaac went to London to ring the bell in the London Stock Exchange? How can a Communist party do this?
Pinarayi: There is nothing to be surprised about this. The government needed funds, for which normally one takes loans. The masala bonds (that KIIFB issued at the London Stock Exchange in 2019) are based on this model of loans. We got permission from RBI and then sold masala bonds. When questions were raised in Parliament, the Centre said we had taken permission from RBI. There are no restrictions on the Communist party for such activities.
Why has Nirmala Sitharaman accused KIIFB of corruption while the Enforcement Directorate has filed a case?
Pinarayi: All these are just political moves. The BJP has done many things, which should not have been, with an eye on the elections. This is clear from Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement and the ED’s actions. This should not have been done. I don’t agree with this. We have opposed this strongly.
Is a case against KIIFB an endorsement of what you are doing?
Pinarayi: What the ED is doing is wrong. Their actions will not stand legally. KIIFB is working for the state government. Some ED officials are working against the federal structure of the country. We do not agree with this.
So are you doing ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas’ like PM Modi says?
Pinarayi: We stand for the development of the state. We have made this clear before.
PM Modi has accused the Left Front of being a Judas and says it has sold the state for a few pieces of silver.
Pinarayi: Everyone knows who has played the role of Judas in our country. Our Constitution guarantees secularism. Everyone knows which force in the country has been acting against this secularism. The murders of Graham Staines and his two children took place in our country (Australian missionary killed in Odisha in 1999). We also remember what happened in Kandahar. In a country that has such memories, I’d only say that when you talk of Judas, it’d be good to keep in mind who it would affect.
What is your view of Sangh Parivar and PM Modi?
Pinarayi: Who has been carrying out attacks against Christians in our country? Everyone in the country knows. The Sangh Parivar has been given the leadership for these attacks. Who has been protecting the Sangh Parivar? We should see this. Everyone in the country knows who the leader of the BJP is. The RSS always holds the leadership of the BJP. The BJP is just an organisation that works under the RSS. We should not forget this.
You are sometimes called the Narendra Modi of Kerala…
Pinarayi: I do not know what kind of person Narendra Modi is. The people of Kerala know what kind of person I am for many years. I don’t now have to emulate Narendra Modi. I have my own style and methods. Modi might have his own style.
Perhaps Narendra Modi should be called the Pinarayi Vijayan of India…
Pinarayi: It is not like that. Narendra Modi has his own style and Pinarayi Vijayan has his own style. That is how one should look at it.
How do you see the elections in West Bengal?
Pinarayi: It is important to strengthen secularism. There are a lot of attacks against secularism. If secularism is to be protected, we need to take a strong stand against communalism.
Should the Opposition come together to fight the BJP?
Pinarayi: This is what I said. In order to protect secularism, we should not make any compromises vis-à-vis communalism. It is not enough to claim you are secular.
But the Left is fighting the Congress in Kerala but has joined hands with the party in Bengal. Isn’t that a contradiction?
Pinarayi: There is a unique situation in West Bengal. We took a stand keeping in mind this unique situation. This does not mean the Congress has been absolved of its sins. We only need to see the situation from this perspective.
What are the lessons you have learnt in Bengal?
Pinarayi: We have taken stock of the situation in West Bengal correctly. Moreover, the party in West Bengal is moving in a better direction now.
What have Kerala’s Communists done differently from the Soviet Union, which collapsed 30 years ago?
Pinarayi: When such problems arose in the world Communist movement, the CPM was able to correctly analyse and speak out within the party about what was happening in the Soviet Union at that time. Through this, we were able to carefully preserve the CPM. We were able to take the stand that Marxism-Leninism is right. The fact is we were able to sustain without much injury. In Kerala, the CPM & communist parties were strong before and continue to be strong.
How are you expecting to fare in this election?
Pinarayi: It will be a good victory for the LDF this time.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)