His detractors often call him a ‘mini Modi’ citing his tough posture and style of functioning. Unmoved Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, 74, says he is keen to rebrand the state as a favourite investment destination. With the completion of two years in office came the landslide victory for the party candidate in Chengannur by-election. Emerging stronger in the party and outside, he still holds his anti-Congress views strongly. Talking to HT’s Ramesh Babu, the lone Left CM stressed the need for opposition unity at the same time he ruled out an electoral alliance with the Congress. Excerpts:You said the bypoll verdict was a mandate for your government. Yes, it shows people wholeheartedly accepted our policies. Chengannur, though a sitting seat, was never been a stronghold of the left. The opposition ran a high-voltage campaign with help of a section of the media. But finally their tall claims fell flat — people stood with us. It is a victory of democratic and secular forces — huge margin of our candidate Saji Cherian (a record 20,000 votes) shows a change is underway — the Left is expanding its base steadily. We are really humbled by this mandate and, of course, it makes us more responsible.At the national-level, an anti-BJP front is gaining momentum. It was quite evident in neighbouring Karnataka. Will it be effective? Yes, it is the need of the hour. Anti-people policies of the BJP government have made strong opposition a necessity. The NDA has failed on all fronts — agrarian crisis, unemployment and price rise. Demonetisation and GST have wrecked lives of ordinary people. All are upset with the present regime. It has to go, sooner the better. But we don’t believe in hotchpotch arrangements either. We feel effectiveness of an opposition to the BJP will be determined by policies of the alternative. A mere change of face is not enough. We need to address root causes of discontentment and their remedies. The main task is to defeat the BJP by rallying all secular and democratic forces. But this has to be done without having a political alliance with the Congress. But there can be understanding with all opposition parties, including the Congress in parliament on agreeable issues. If such a move comes into existence nationally, what will be the scene in Kerala?We have only one stance and policy. The party congress has made it clear time and again. We don’t want any political alliance with the Congress. I don’t want to add anything more to it. Despite the recent mandate, there were many charges against your government: police excess, laxity and recurring political murders.It is more fiction than facts. The opposition and a section of the media are trumping up some isolated incidents. Police in the state by and large did a good job — they cracked many unsolved cases and created a perception that crimes will not go unpunished. But this is not to say they are foolproof, a government inherits police from its predecessors. There were some isolated incidents but the government has taken action against erring officials. We are planning many reforms in police force to make it more vibrant. We will raise representation of women in force considerably. Kerala has the best record when it comes to law and order. Our conviction rate is better than the national average. Take crime records, political murders, clashes and communal flare-ups, all came down drastically. You came down heavily on the Congress recently while criticising former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to RSS headquarters.It was a rude shock to those who believe in democracy and secularism. What is more shocking is that he did not go there to talk about democracy or other values, he went there to inaugurate a camp of RSS workers who completed three years of training. His entry in the visitors’ book is equally condemnable. As his daughter said the RSS will use his visit to gain acceptability and sympathy. He should have avoided it. BJP national leaders are saying that the party has broadened its base in Kerala.Let them be in fool’s paradise. I don’t want to go back to history — in Chengannur bypoll its candidate lost more than 7,500 votes from the earlier tally. You can gauge whether its influence is growing or declining. The fact of the matter is its divisive politics has no place in a secular state like Kerala. We hope Kerala will become a bellwether in Indian politics. The recent Nipah outbreak has triggered a panic in the state. Despite some deaths, it came out of the shock immediately and contained the outbreak somehow.True, some deaths took place. It was a bolt from the blue and we fought a spirited battle to check its secondary infection. Look, efforts gone into it are unparalleled. We were able to identify the rare virus early. Our doctors, nurses, hospital workers and health officials did a commendable job. Elected representatives, opposition leaders and officials we all stood like one. Our health infrastructure worked as a well-oiled machine. We don’t want to lower our vigil. How we contained the outbreak is a lesson for other states. Both national and international agencies lauded our efforts. We will chalk out long-term policies to make our health sector more robust.