Mild-mannered, slightly inarticulate, colourless — these are words that come to mind when describing minister for defence and Congress leader AK Antony, 73. But on stage for a rally in Cherthala, this diminutive man exudes aggression in chaste Malayalam.
He breathes fire against opponents of the Congress, reserving his most acerbic for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. And his recent surgeries don’t seem to have slowed him down as he races from rally to rally in blistering heat.
Speaking to HT, the veteran Kerala politician is certain that the BJP will not be able to open its account in the state. He says that the BJP will bring with it a sectarian and communal brand of politics, alien to India’s unique culture and certainly to Kerala.
"Modi will be a total disaster for this country. What development model is he talking about? Kerala’s model is 10 times better.”
The Congress-led United Democratic Front faces the Left in a bitter fight in Kerala. But Antony is not too worried.
"The Left has simply not been able to keep up with the times. Around 70% of the population of the state is young. The Left still believes in the politics of vendetta, it is a relic of the past, a Stalinist throwback. The dastardly murder of TP Chandrasekharan, a prominent Marxist rebel, shows how the Left can react to anyone trying to go against it."
Antony sees a great danger in the RSS coming to the forefront for Modi and the BJP’s campaign.
"They came out in force after the Emergency to support the Janata party, now for the second time, they are active in politics and leading from the front." He says that UPA2 was hurt by corruption charges but feels that its record of schemes for the poor and disadvantaged has been overlooked.
He dismisses Aam Aadmi Party as a flash in the pan and says it is no threat. He defends his track record as defence minister, saying that the mishaps in recent times should not overlook the modernisation of the forces under him.
On who is the best choice for prime minister, Antony is certain: Rahul Gandhi. "He is young, dynamic and the youth connect with him." And does he consider himself a candidate for the post if UPA3 were to come about? "I am not a mad man, I know my limitations, I am a realist, such a thought has not even crossed my mind," he says.
He says the people are his tonic and feels at home in Kerala not in Delhi.
He wonders why the media are not focusing more on the Kerala development model not backed by corporate houses.
He insists he has no religion and does not appeal to the Christian community which has a very powerful presence in Kerala politics.
"Don’t believe the surveys. In the last two weeks I see the tide turning against Modi. I have been in politics for over 50 years and I trust my own instinct."