Veliyakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan, 83, has been harbouring an ambition for many years: become the chief minister of Kerala. Had he not been defeated in the 1996 assembly elections, Achuthanandan, would have been the chief minister of Kerala. And in the 2001 elections too, he had a chance to become the chief minister. But then the Left Democratic Front got defeated.
His admirers and aides say the ongoing Kerala state assembly elections could be the last chance for Achuthanandan to fulfill his ambition. In the last few months, he fought with his party -- the Communist Part of India-Marxist -- to give him a seat to fight the polls. His enmity with archrival CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan continues.
Despite heavy odds -- his age and a strong resentment against him by the Vijayan faction -- Achuthanandan is touring the length and breadth of Kerala, campaigning. Party insiders say if the LDF is voted to power, which is most likely, Achuthanandan is a sure bet to become the next chief minister of Kerala.
In an exclusive interview with George Iype, the campaign weary Achuthanandan argues why and how the LDF would come to rule Kerala.
Are you nervous as the election dates approach?
Me, nervous? Why should I be nervous? The Left front is happy because we are certain that we are going to defeat the Congress. Personally, I am confident I will win the elections. (Achuthanandan is contesting from Malampuzha constituency in Palakkad district).
But you faced serious problems from within your party before elections. You were denied a seat first. There were protests within the cadres over this, and this forced the party leadership to give the seat.
The politburo first decided that I will not contest election. But the party leadership reviewed the decision and said that I should contest. The controversy ended with that, and the decision only reinvigorated the party workers and the people of Kerala.
It is said that there is a rebellion against you within the party.
The so called rebellion is a media creation. Our party is united, and we are confident of a historic victory this time.
Will you be the chief ministerial candidate if the LDF is voted to power?
The CPI-M has not projected any chief ministerial candidate during the election. We never project chief ministers during the campaign. The name of the next chief minister will be decided after the polls.
But party workers say you will be the chief minister if LDF is voted to power.
Let their wishes be true.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy says you are anti-reform, and if you become chief minister of Kerala, the state will go back in development?
Has the state gone up in development when the Congress government has been in power for the last five years? Where is the development? Farmers are committing suicide. It is a lie that the Congress is spreading that the CPI-M is anti-reform. In fact, it was the LDF government, which made Kerala an IT-savvy state and a model state for tourism. Our reform policies are always people friendly. The problem with the Congress government is that its reform policies are only meant for the party leaders to make money.
The Congress alleges you have effectively blocked development projects like the Smart City in Kochi.
We have not blocked the Smart City. We want the government to develop IT companies in the state. But the Smart City was basically a land deal by which the government would give acres of land to the Dubai Internet City without any conditions. It was basically a land deal that would have benefited some Congress leaders including perhaps Oommen Chandy.
You say the Congress-led United Democratic Front is a communal front. But the CPI-M has also an alliance with the Indian National League (a breakway faction of the Indian Union Muslim League) for this election.
I reiterate that the Congress is a communal party. It has worked out definite arrangements with the BJP and even (jailed Islamic fundamentalist leader Abdul Nasser) Madani's People's Democratic Front in the hope that they can defeat us. There is a vast difference between the Congress and the CPI-M. We have been forced by the Congress to enter into an informal understanding the Indian National League, which is not a communal party like other parties.
How many seats would the LDF get this time?
More than 100, I am sure.
Don't you think that there is an irony in the fight between the Congress and the CPI-M in Kerala. At the Centre, the CPI-M supports the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government.
We supported the Congress at the Centre to ensure that the BJP is not in power. We are giving principled outside support to the Congress government at the Centre. That does not mean that we can not take on the corrupt Congress government in Kerala. The CPI-M is the only party in India that fights corruption and communal forces.