'Results won't affect my govt'
Chief Minister AK Antony whose state-wide election campaign started April 20 from Manjeswaram, entered this town on Thursday. He has been drawing crowds as he drives home the message that disunity in the party - a reference to infighting with veteran leader K Karunakaran - is a "closed chapter". A visibly tired Antony, who is on a strong dose of antibiotics, said his role was in Kerala even if the Congress came to power in the Centre. Excerpts:
How has the response been to your rally?
If one were to gauge the response from the day it began, the yatra has become a huge success. This can be seen from the turnout despite the inclement weather. As the rally progresses, I am sure it will make a huge impact.
What sort of response do you think it would have when it reaches its finishing point in the capital city?
It will be to the advantage of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) because I can easily sense the mind of the people. Despite several internal problems, I am overwhelmed by the people's response and it will peak when (party chief) Sonia Gandhi visits the state.
Since you took charge three years ago, you have been saying that you are a changed man. Could you elaborate?
Yes, it is true. What I did was to just change my approach because I noticed the world is changing and, if Kerala has to progress, the old dogmas within me should also change.
Has this change benefitted you more than the people of Kerala? Is this just an image building exercise by a politician?
My aim is to see Kerala become one of the best states in the country and I have laid the foundation for it. That is why I said only my approach has changed. Personally I am the same person I was years ago.
You ask me what I have gained: has my personal wealth increased? Am I now enjoying any new luxury? I live with minimum needs and I have nothing for myself. My only aim is to see Kerala rise and, as far as I am concerned, the individual in me remains the same as in the past.
Would the results of the elections have any bearing on your government?
The results are not going to have any bearing because this is not going to be an assessment of the performance of this government.
Do you, like other Congress leaders, believe that the Congress would come to power in New Delhi?
Yes, certainly, that is what is being said and heard. I strongly believe the BJP's time is over. After peaking, they are going down and they should go.
If the Congress comes to power at the Centre, do you find a role for yourself?
No, never, my role is in Kerala.
You are completing three years in office. Have you made a self-assessment?
No, and why? This is not the time for writing an autobiography.
Your priorities in the next two years?
Now that the foundation has been laid in all sectors through path-breaking policies, my government and I are preparing to implement the new policies and consolidate our position.
What about your problems with Karunakaran?
That is now a closed chapter.
Would the election results have any bearing on the new relationship?
I said that is a closed chapter.
Are the internal issues in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) creating a problem for Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan and is that why he is hitting at you by making unparliamentary remarks?
I think that is one reason for his recent controversial remarks. I now feel Achuthanandan is affected by a political tumour and is making remarks totally uncalled for and unbecoming of his stature.