By Sanu V. George
Thiruvananthapuram, April 30 (IANS) Congress veteran and Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, 64-year-old Ramesh Chennithala might be short in stature, but after being groomed in the political stables of Congress legend K. Karunakaran, he is today a ‘tall’ leader.
Chennithala rose from the student ranks in the Congress and went on to become one of the youngest State Minister at the age of 30 in Karunakaran’s cabinet in 1986 and since then he has not looked back.
He has been in the Lok Sabha on quite a few occasions, before returning to the state politics and had one of the longest tenures – till recently, as state party president.
Later he became the number two in the Oommen Chandy government, when he made a late entry as Home Minister and now is the leader of opposition.
In a freewheeling chat with IANS at his official residence here, Chennithala said these are all hazards of the job.
Q: Do you think you are being attacked by Vijayan, more than anyone?
A: It’s my job that I am doing. I will question and criticise the Vijayan government, if the situation arises. Apart from one meeting, long back, we, the opposition, had never been consulted on the way how Covid-19 should be tackled. We are cooperating with the state and Centre in tackling this pandemic, but the way Vijayan is going, he functions like an autocrat, which we will not accept.
Q: Why is he jittery, each time you ask questions?
A: Just imagine what would have happened, had I not brought to the attention the now infamous Sprinklr data scam. I had to go the High Court and just see, they have accepted each and every issue that we pointed out with regard to data privacy. They themselves pointed out that they would have taken a different approach had it not been for the pandemic. The issue is before the court and it will come after three weeks. I don’t think anyone will say we are playing politics.
Q: Do you think it’s after you raised Sprinklr, his attacks have increased?
A: Probably because this is a deal, which has flouted every accepted norm of the way how a government should function. In such a massive data transfer there is not even a file. This handing of the data is grossly against the accepted policy of the CPI-M. The CPI-M had clearly mentioned about its position in its election manifesto. This issue was never discussed in his party, in the Left Democratic Front, nor in the state cabinet. This clearly shows the arrogance that Vijayan carries in himself.
A: Yes, you wait and see, Kerala will give a befitting reply to his arrogance. He does not like anyone who criticises him. Just look back and count, who all has he shouted down. Even you (media) also have come under his wrath. It has now come to a stage that none for the fear of his anger, keeps away and that he is using it quite well to do things the way he desires. But this style will not help at all, as this is not the sign of a tall leader.
Q: Why do you think so?
A: Just take a dispassionate look into what’s happening in Kerala and the way Covid-19 is being handled. Vijayan is only the 22nd Chief Minister of Kerala. Right from EMS Nampoothiripad to Oommen Chandy, successive governments have played their part, depending on the situations and have carried forward, from the strong foundations of our state. If you look into what happened in 1918, when Spanish Flu struck the world. The erstwhile Travancore kingdom registered the lowest death rate. Such is our system, Kerala has achieved everything because of the education, literacy and the presence of a well oiled health machinery that has been in place for ages. So for those who govern here, there is a strong base and all what needs to be done is to take forward taking everyone together.
Q: What do you think is happening now?
A: To put it straight, I will say, the only thing happening now is a perfect PR exercise of Vijayan. Everything associated with Covid-19, here is, nothing but publicity. So many states in our country are also doing the same thing and have done a commendable job, but there none of them are engaged in blowing the trumpet. Do you see any Chief Minister addressing the media daily and for over an hour. To prepare for the press meet, lot of time is consumed. Even the positive cases are first announced by Vijayan. Precious time is lost.
Q: What should be done?
A: He (Vijayan) is using this for his publicity, but you wait and see, this will soon backfire. People of Kerala know everything and they are quite intelligent. Everyone knows that he is doing this, as the local body polls are round the corner and next year the assembly polls.
Q: Don’t you think this would help him in the elections?
A: Of course, he will surely use all this present rhetoric for the election campaign. In the 2010 local bodies polls, we came out with flying colours and lost that edge in the 2015 polls. But this time we are confident of getting back. Our United Democratic Front is well prepared and ready to take on him, to eventually show him the exit door.