The first phase of elections to the Kerala assembly begins on Saturday amidst pre-poll surveys saying the ruling United Democratic Front will be defeated at the hustings.
The surveys have predicted a clean sweep for the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front. One survey said the LDF would win close to 100 seats -- the number that the UDF had won in 2001 -- in the 140-member Kerala assembly.
But Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the man who is leading the UDF election campaign across Kerala is not worried. "I have done my best. I am sure we will win this time also," he says.
In an exclusive interview with Managing Editor George Iype during a small break that he took amidst the hectic electioneering, Chandy explains why the UDF has to win once again in Kerala.
Pre-poll surveys say the LDF will win in the elections.
Who believes poll surveys these days? In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections what did all the pre-poll survey predict? Everyone said India was shining and the Bharatiya Janata Party would win. But the people, the voters, voted for the Congress party and now we have a stable, secular and vibrant government at the Centre under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. So all these current pre-poll surveys that are coming in against us have no fundamental basis.
Are you then confident that the UDF will be voted back to power?
Yes, we are absolutely confident. My government has carried out spectacular development work in Kerala. Look at any sector in the state, whether it is IT, biotechnology, agriculture or industry. There has been a boom in all these sectors because the government has been very proactive and progressive.
Are you satisfied with your term as chief minister?
I am very satisfied because I could carry out whatever I had promised. Look at Kerala's villages. There is electricity and telephone connections everywhere. Look at the education sector. A number of new engineering and medical colleges have come in the state in the last five years. Look at the IT sector. Companies like Infosys and Wipro have set up campuses in Kerala. Our initiatives have brought companies and jobs to Kerala.
But the Left parties say you have achieved nothing, and your government has been a total failure?
The Left parties say so because they have nothing else to say as opposition. The Left party leaders have been sleeping all these years in Kerala, playing violent politics that has so far harmed the state's development. The Marxist party is the only political entity in the world that would say a new road or new IT project like Smart City that we have proposed in Kochi are anti-development. They say so because they do not know what is development. The Left leaders have not travelled out of Kerala and West Bengal. I request them to travel to China to see the great globalisation, the great development happening there, rather than preaching old, shameful theories.
The high court recently permitted your government to sign the proposed Smart City project. But you said you are not going to sign it right now.
Yes, the high court verdict is a clean chit to my government that it is the best development project that is coming to Kerala. But we are not going to sign the agreement with the Dubai Internet City right now because the Communists and Marxists are dead against the project. It is election time, and we want the people to decide whether the Marxists are right or we are right.
How do you visualize CPI-M leader V S Achuthanandan as the next chief minister of Kerala?
He is the anti-development hero of Kerala. I am sure the people will reject his politics that is based on an anti-development plank.
You were against a poll agreement with K Karunakaran's Democratic Indira Congress. But the Congress high command decided against your will. Do you think the poll alliance will badly affect the Congress prospects in the elections?
I was not against a poll agreement with DIC. What I said was that all those leaders have left the Congress should come back accepting the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. I am sure one day all of them will come back. The alliance is not going to affect the Congress's chances. I am sure it would only strengthen us.
So do you hope to be the chief minister one more time from next month?
The ball is in the people's court. Let the people decide.