‘We did not jump the gun on Rahul’s candidature’

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala says the Congress in Kerala had not presupposed or jumped the gun by suggesting that the party national president and presumptive Prime Ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi contest the Lok Sabha from Wayanad constituency.

The BJP and CPM are on the same page when it comes to the question of Mr. Gandhi’s leadership. Both parties resent his pan-India appeal, Mr. Chennithala says.

Do you think that Mr. Gandhi’s undecided candidacy has bedevilled the Congress in Kerala and retarded the momentum of its election campaign in the State?

No. On the contrary, Mr. Gandhi’s possible candidature has enthused party workers.

The BJP and the CPI(M), has sought to put the Congress on the defence on the issue by insinuating that the back-to-back announcement of Mr. Gandhi’s candidature by Oommen Chandy and yourself had pointed to a struggle for one-upmanship in the party. What is your reaction?

Mr. Chandy and I had just echoed the aspiration of Congress workers in Kerala. The party felt that Mr. Gandhi’s presence in the South would solidify the secular opposition against the BJP. Both the BJP and CPI(M) fear a rout if he comes south. Hence, the wild charges.

Has the speculation that Mr. Gandhi would contest in Wayanad made him appear electorally weak in his traditional Amethi constituency?

No, Mr. Gandhi can win anywhere in India given his political stature. Amethi will always stand with him. So would the rest of the country.

Will his possible candidature in Wayanad mar the chances of a Left-supported secular alternative to the BJP at the Centre?

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had hindered CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s attempt to cobble together a secular front against the BJP with the support of the Congress. For him, the Congress is the main enemy and not the BJP.

Can the Congress genuinely claim to have the backing of the NSS in the Lok Sabha polls?

The rank and file of the NSS will vote for the UDF. Their stance on the Sabarimala issue has been consistent with ours.

Will SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellapplly Natesan’ss s repeated criticism of Congress leaders have any bearing on the elections?

We are not going to contest any statement by Mr. Natesan. The more he attacks the UDF, it is more beneficial for us.

How is the Congress stance different from that of the BJP on the Sabarimala issue?

The Congress protested peacefully and sought a Constitutional solution to the imbroglio. In contrast, the BJP unleashed a violent and divisive campaign and refused to moot a Central law to circumvent the SC order.


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