Pinarayi Vijayan to be last Communist CM of country: Chennithala

Updated on Mar 21, 2021 12:42 PM IST

Central agencies were “deliberately going slow” in smuggling and money laundering cases, says Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala in an interview to the Hindustan Times.

Ramesh Chennithala is one of the contenders for the Kerala CM’s post if the UDF wins the elections. (HT Photo)
Ramesh Chennithala is one of the contenders for the Kerala CM’s post if the UDF wins the elections. (HT Photo)

One of the contenders for the chief minister’s post if the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) comes to power in Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala was instrumental in unearthing many cases of alleged kickbacks like Sprinklr, Life Mission project, Deep sea fishing MoU and Backdoor entry in government service to keep the ruling dispensation under pressure. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, he spoke about the UDF’s prospects in the assembly elections, contentious Sabarimala issue and the alleged omissions and commissions of the Pinarayi Vijayan regime.

Q. Most of the pre-poll surveys suggest Pinarayi Vijayan government will buck the four-decade- old trend to win a consecutive term in the state and that the going was tough for the UDF?

A. We don’t believe in surveys. In the last Lok Sabha election, many surveys predicted a fifty-fifty chance for both fronts. But we swept all but one of the 20 seats. Most of the surveys were based on recent local body elections but these elections were fought on local issues. The state has never seen such a corrupt regime. The CM’s office was directly involved in smuggling and money laundering cases. Pinarayi Vijayan is going the Buddhadeb way. In Kerala, he will preside over the fall of the last Communist regime. Even the party ideology of dialectical materialism (the Marxist theory that sees political and historical events as a result of conflicts caused by material needs) was toned down and he rolled out the red carpet for companies with dubious pasts. There are not many differences between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vijayan, both are autocratic and oppress dissent with force.

Q. The government says you are raking-up the emotional Sabarimala issue eyeing votes?

A. It is not true. State temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran took it up, expressing regrets over the incidents that unfolded at the hilltop temple three years ago. A day after party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government’s position was right and there was no need for any regrets over the issue. They are talking in different tones. The government is cheating believers. We always took a view to protect the interest of believers. We have already made it clear in our manifesto that we will bring a special legislation to protect age-old tradition of the temple. Sentiments of believers were hurt and we will do everything to correct them.

Q. Why should people bring UDF to power?

A. I think people are waiting for an opportunity to boot out the present government steeped in corruption and scandals. The government pumped in money for PR exercises to give an impression that everything was right but things were pretty bad. We all know how its publicity stunt on Covid-19 control measures went awry and the state later turned into a hub of the virus. We know the government and party recruited many cyber warriors to present a pleasant picture and attack the critics. The brutal murder of two Congress workers in north Kerala is still afresh in our mind. If voted to power, we will ensure a corruption- free and transparent regime and protect all believers. I reiterate that the government has no business to tamper with age old beliefs and customs.

Q. You recently said there is a tacit understanding between the BJP-led union government and CM Vijayan?

A. Our suspicion is right. Both are hand in glove. The CBI, probing the 30 year-old Lavalin kickbacks against the CM, is deliberately delaying the case. It sought time for more than 30 occasions in the apex court. And in gold smuggling and money laundering cases too, central agencies’ probes slowed down. Gold smuggling case investigation stopped abruptly after the CM’s private secretary was questioned. More than 9 months have passed since the recovery of smuggled gold from the UAE consular office but the probe is yet to reach the real beneficiaries or perpetrators. The CM is sacrificing his officials to escape the smuggling taint.

Q. Are you in the race for chief minister ship if the UDF is elected to power?

A. This will be decided by the party after the election. You might have noticed the candidate list. We gave opportunities to many youngsters as desired by our leader Rahul Gandhi. There was no group infighting or differences with our allies. Everything went as expected. We are united in the fight and we are sure that the incumbents will be shown the door.

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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