‘Manmohan Singh beautifully implements US policies’
Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan says the CPM has the real yardstick of development, not the Congress
The Communist most in the news in India for some days has been Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. He is 87, but shows no sign of stopping as Kerala goes for an election on 13 April. Perhaps nowhere else on earth would anyone be allowed to contest an election at that age, but Achuthanandan’s supporters forced the CPM to give him a ticket after first saying he won’t contest. He is still the wild one, in a notoriously conservative party that considers 60 a young age. Here, he responds to a set of questions Tehelka sent him a few days ago. Achuthanandan sought the questions by email and he sent his responses by email. There are two questions he refused to answer, which are at the end of the Q&A. Edited excerpts from the conversation:
The Left parties are in a crisis and could lose the governments in Kerala and West Bengal. What is your assessment?
It is not the Left or the Left parties that are in a crisis in India. It is the Right and their parties who are in a crisis today. The Left has been crusading against the UPA government’s endless scams and anti-people policies. The Left expects a shining victory in both Kerala and West Bengal.
Such is the crisis of confidence that the BJP is planning to help you to weaken the Congress. Would you take the BJP’s help?
It is a baseless question. Such a question has no relevance. The Left has always fought against the ideologies of BJP and the sangh parivar.
The CPM is not seen as a party that stands for development. Why?
Where did you get such information from? The CPM is a party that has always stood for development. In the past five years, Kerala has achieved the biggest development in the history of the state. It was the 1957 Communist government in Kerala that put forth a true development model for the country. Our goal is that of equality and pro-people development. Through land reforms, we tried to make the fruits of development available for all. That is why, in Kerala, inequality is lesser than in the other states. Kerala is on top in every sphere of social welfare in India. In the past five years, the state has achieved many awards and accolades conferred by national media institutions and others.
Why should the Kerala voter vote for the CPM?
In the past decade, the state has seen the rule of both the UDF (the Congress-led United Democratic Front) and the LDF (Left Democratic Front) governments. The tenure of the UDF government is still a nightmare for the people of Kerala. During the UDF rule, there were farmers’ suicides, unemployment, corruption, free reign of mafias and disruption of law and order. The current LDF government has a shining record of pro-people performance. Peace prevails in every sphere of life. We have fulfilled all the promises made in the election manifesto. The government has decided to give rice at Rs 2 a kilo for all families irrespective of the APL(Above Poverty Line)— BPL (Below Poverty Line) demarcation. We have implemented schemes such as free health insurance, total electrification, total housing and land to the landless families, etc. The Election Commission’s decision to conduct the assembly election in Kerala in single phase is a great recognition to the state’s maintenance of law and order. The LDF will win this election too.
Your supporters seem to have forced the CPM into giving you a ticket again. Do you think you should contest at the age of 87?
I am contesting from the Malampuzha assembly constituency as a candidate of the LDF. That is the decision of the party.
What is your opinion of the current state of the Congress?
The Congress is falling day by day. We supported the Congress in forming the first UPA government in order to prevent the BJP’s ascent to power. But, we withdrew our support when the Congress decided to surrender the nation’s sovereignty to American imperialism. Then, we saw the Congress going to the extent of horse-trading to cling to power. The cash-for-votes issue was revealed in parliament itself. Now the WikiLeaks cables have proved the same. The Congress-led UPA government is drowned in scams and scandals.
Do you think New Delhi has been objective with your government? Do you have complaints?
By putting strong pressure on the Centre, we have achieved many things for the state’s development during the past five years. After we put pressure on the farmers’ suicides, we got the Kuttanad package, agricultural development packages for the districts of Wayanad, Palakkad and Kasargod. However, the Centre neglected the state in many things, especially after the Left withdrew its support to the UPA government. Despite the state government’s strong demand, the Centre refused to reinstate the ration for APL families. The centre still keeps silent on the proposed Kochi Metro Rail Project. The last railway budget has completely neglected the proposed Palakkad coach factory despite the state providing free land for the project. Nothing has been done for the Cherthala wagon factory for which a MoU was signed during the tenure of the UPA1 government. There is an endless list where the Centre has neglected the state.
How come your son has got involved in a controversy that could hurt your chances?
The allegations levelled by the opposition against my son are totally unwarranted. I have been fighting inside and outside the assembly against the sandalwood mafia and the lottery mafia. The opposition alleged that my son has taken a bribe to make me go easy on the sandalwood mafia and to object to a CBI inquiry into the lottery issue. I have ordered a Lokayukta inquiry into it. I have written to the Prime Minister to include the allegations against my son in the CBI enquiry into the lottery issue. I had not received a response from the Prime Minister on my earlier letter seeking a CBI inquiry into the lottery issue. I am yet to receive a response from the Prime Minister on my second letter too, which asks for a probe into the allegations against my son.
What happens should you lose both state elections?
In both the states, the Left will retain power.
You are still out of the Politburo. What was the violation of party discipline for which you were removed?
At one point, the Politburo suspended me along with CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. The suspension was cancelled later. I was suspended again for some party issues. Within the party, decisions are made according to the Leninist principles by conducting discussions among all the members. A member would not be kept outside the decision-making processes even though action is being taken against that member.
What is your opinion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?
Manmohan Singh was a bourgeois economist and a top official at the IMF. He was not a politician before becoming the finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government. The first task he beautifully completed was to implement the United State’s globalisation-liberalisation policies in India. His policies are favourable to American imperialism. Recently, he confessed his inability to tackle corruption.
I have to ask you this, what made you insult a 26/11 hero’s family?
I have not insulted the family of Sandeep Unnikrishnan. It was some people’s misinterpretation. I was in a party meeting in New Delhi when I heard about the incident. That night, I went to Unnikrishnan’s house in Bengaluru to pay homage to the martyr. The reports in some media regarding my visit were erroneous. We will always remember with respect the bravery and martyrdom of those jawans, including Sandeep, who fought against the terrorists.
Your counterparts in other states are often equated with development. Like Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and Narendra Modi in Gujarat. Don’t you think that you lack such a brand image?
Such questions arise from pre-conceived notions. You live in New Delhi. So, you might be aware of the living conditions in Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi. Please come to Kerala and see for yourself. Real development is not about infrastructure. Human development is the true yardstick of development. It is widely known that Kerala is ahead of other states in every sphere of human development. Equal development is our goal.
During the past five years, Kerala has moved far ahead in agriculture, industry, IT, tourism, basic amenities, health and social welfare. Kerala is going to get total electrification by the end of 2011. This year will also see Kerala becoming a total housing state. We have taken action on the Rs 2 rice for eligible families, land to the landless families, total health insurance, etc. These are bigger achievements than those of other states in the country. In Kerala, we have achieved inclusive development based on welfare, development and peace. You are ignoring these facts while pointing to Bihar and Gujarat. Kerala should not be compared with those states.
These are the questions Achuthanandan refused to answer.
1. For a while now, the CPM has been addressing caste and religion communities. Has the CPM given up atheism and its concept of a casteless society?
2. There is a definite unease about the CPM leadership in Delhi. Are you happy with the way the party is being led?
Thufail PT is a Correspondent with Tehelka.com.