Thiruvananthapuram: Former chief minister Oommen Chandy has accused the LDF of relying on an advertising blitz to make up for its failures. In an exclusive interview with TOI, the senior Congress leader talks about the Sabarimala issue, welfare schemes, Tharoor, and a lot more. Excerpts
Congress has alleged that the pre-poll surveys are part of CPM’s PR work. Are the surveys targeting anyone in particular?
The current PR work is targeting opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala because he has brought out the maximum allegations against the LDF government.
Don’t all governments try to give maximum publicity to their achievements?
Such PR work has never happened when I was the chief minister. There is nothing wrong with displaying the good things of the government. But here it is not like that, they are trying to hide the flaws of the government.
Will the Sabarimala issue play a key role in this election?
Both NSS and the UDF have a permanent stand on the Sabarimala issue. We stand for the protection of the faith and customs of the devotees. UDF does not want the Sabarimala issue to be made into a controversy. CPM was adamant about bringing women to Sabarimala with police escort. If they had shown some restraint, the issue would not have escalated. Now, they are showing some restraint due to elections. But what they have in mind is different. They even provoked the NSS.
Food kits and welfare pensions are considered as the plus points of the LDF government. Will it benefit them?
The reality is different. While they gave free kits, they have stopped the free distribution of rice for BPL cardholders that was started by the UDF government. We implemented that within 100 days of the UDF rule and gave it for five years. But the LDF government is charging Rs 2 for a kg of rice. UDF used to give kit during Onam. The LDF government couldn’t do that. Now, they are doing it as they have no other examples to highlight for good governance. When people asked for the kit during Onam, they cited various reasons like the floods, Nipah, etc. Now, they are giving it because they’re in a deep crisis.
Shashi Tharoor had played an important role in framing the UDF manifesto. Will he be more involved in state politics?
Tharoor is an asset for Congress at the national level. It is the need of the Congress and the people to make maximum use of his service in the state as well as the Centre. The national leadership will have to decide on that.
Are the groups in the Congress party satisfied with the candidates’ list?
Our candidates are special this time. Most of them are youngsters. Those above 70 are only me and two others. Only in Elathur there was an issue between the Congress and one of its allies. Everything else has been solved.
What’s the trend now?
UDF victory is sure. The main reason is the flaws and shortcomings of the LDF government. Other than giving advertisements, nothing is being done. Take the case of Idukki, where ‘pattayams’ are given strictly for agriculture. A small house can be constructed on that land, nothing more. They can’t build a school, ration shop, or a place of worship. How can they live like that? If the UDF government comes to power, we will change this rule in a time-bound manner.