HT interview | ‘People want substantive performance from elected leaders,’ says Rajeev Chandrasekhar | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT interview | ‘People want substantive performance from elected leaders,’ says Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Apr 24, 2024 04:48 AM IST

People understand the difference between a government that delivers versus a state government that’s bankrupt, says Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has never won a Lok Sabha seat in Kerala, has fielded Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar from the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency where it came second in 2014 and 2019. Chandrasekhar faces incumbent 3-time MP Shashi Tharoor of Congress and senior CPI leader Pannyan Ravindran. In an interview with HT, the Union minister details how he believes that his party stands a strong chance of winning and how people today want substantive performance from elected leaders. Edited Excerpts:

Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar. (PTI)
Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar. (PTI)

With the campaign now in the final leg, how confident are you of winning?

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From day one, the focus of my campaign has been development, progress, jobs, investment, skilling. I have stayed on topic and I have contrasted effectively the two opportunities that my rivals have got from people of Thiruvananthapuram in the past. The rival from CPI has got one term while the one from Congress has got three terms. They have very little to show for it. It’s time Thiruvananthapuram, like the rest of India, joins in this movement of attracting investments, creating jobs and a better future for the youth. It’s quite obvious that there’s very little progress in the constituency and in Kerala generally over the last 15-20 years.

Also Read | 'Fraudulent allegations': Shashi Tharoor warns Rajeev Chandrasekhar of legal action after notice

BJP came second in the constituency the last two times. What prevents it from winning here?

I don’t know. I am not a political analyst. But I can certainly point to many decades of both LDF and UDF spreading deep fake propaganda about the BJP and poisoning the minds of people. I won’t name them, but you know who they are. They have been creating fear and making it seem like the BJP is untouchable. They use the word ‘untouchable’ all the time. That is about to change. The last 10 years, the same communities which were held back by fear and propaganda have realised that PM Narendra Modi has governed without any discrimination and has stayed true to the slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’ ideology. The sheen of those fake stories has begun to fade. In the last two elections, some communities did not support the BJP but that is changing.

You are the Union MoS for skill development and entrepreneurship, electronics and IT. Does your status as a Union minister strengthen your chances?

I don’t think being a Union minister strengthens anyone’s chances. One of my competitors was a Union minister for five years and he did nothing with it. It is about what you do with the opportunity you are given and that’s the difference between politics of performance that BJP believes in versus people who give promises and statements for years and don’t deliver on it. There’s a political culture shift that has happened in the last 10 years. People today want substantive performance from elected representatives.

Kerala is the only big state to never send a BJP MP to the Lok Sabha. What makes you think this election will be different?

I am confident that will change. In Thiruvananthapuram, 24,800 people got homes, 9,40,000 people got PM Ayushman cards, 4,50,000 people got pipeline water to their homes, almost everybody got free vaccines and free rations. They understand the difference between a government that delivers versus a state government that’s bankrupt and is having to go to the Supreme Court to get permission to borrow to pay pensions and salaries.

The Kerala government has repeatedly claimed the Centre is discriminating against the state over its rightful dues. Has the BJP been able to explain its stance or marketed its schemes?

The PM has always been true to the fact that he wants development in partnership with the states. He has never been in a rush to take credit. He only wants to make sure the people who don’t have tap water get it or for that matter, rations, or vaccines. He is more interested in that. In the process if the state government or the CM without doing anything wants to grab credit, it is only embarrassing for them. You can play the game once or twice, but you can’t play it everywhere.

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    Vishnu Varma is Assistant Editor and reports from Kerala for the Hindustan Times. He has 10 years of experience writing for print and digital platforms and has worked at The New York Times, NDTV and The Indian Express in the past. He specialises in longform reportage at the intersections of politics, crime, social commentary and environment.

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