New Delhi: The BJP can only offer communalism, tired scare-mongering over ”love Jihad” and a hate-filled politics of division that will never go far in pluralist Kerala, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Sunday and asserted that the BJP’s high-profile recruit 88-year-old E Sreedharan cannot be the answer to the state’s political future. He also dismissed suggestions that not having a chief ministerial face could dent the Congress-led United Democratic Front’s (UDF) chances in the Kerala Assembly polls and said the party is ”richly endowed” with experienced and capable leaders, any of whom could assume the mantle of chief ministership.
In an interview with PTI, Tharoor said the trend in Kerala is clearly in favour of the UDF and he expects a ”strong victory” when the results are announced on May 2.
On whether the BJP would be a factor in the polls and the impact of ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan being projected as the key person by the saffron party, the former Union minister said the BJP ”can only offer communalism, tired scare-mongering over ‘love Jihad’ and a hate-filled politics of bigotry and division that will never go far in pluralist, inclusive Kerala”. ”They (the BJP) have hit their ceiling in the state. Mr Sreedharan’s impact peaked with the announcement of his candidacy. An 88-year-old technocrat cannot be the answer to the state’s political future,” Tharoor said.
On the BJP accusing the Congress of double standards in aligning with the Left in West Bengal and fighting against it in Kerala, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said in a vast country like India, each state has its distinctive political characteristics. The competition between the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the UDF is deeply entrenched here, but on national issues, especially those related to secularism and opposition to the ”anti-people policies” of the BJP, they share many common views and often make common cause, he said. ”Since 2014, CPM MPs who campaigned against me in Kerala have supported my stand on many issues in the Lok Sabha. As for Bengal, you will have to ask the local party leaders there,” Tharoor said. But the BJP’s allegation is not surprising because they have never understood or appreciated the diversity of India, he added.
Asked about Home Minister Amit Shah questioning Congress’ secular credentials over its alliance with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala, the Indian Secular Front in West Bengal and the All India United Democratic Front in Assam, Tharoor reiterated that each state and each state party has its own history, traditions and political appeal. There is little in common among the three parties mentioned other than that they are seen as essentially Muslim parties, he pointed out. ”For the BJP, which has built its entire narrative and constructed its rise on communalism, to accuse Congress of that sin is preposterous. It is like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black, except that in this case the kettle is white,” Tharoor said.
”Speaking of Kerala, we understand the difference between, on the one hand, community organisations like the NSS (Nair Service Society) or SNDP (Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam) and community-rooted parties like the IUML, and on the other, communal parties like the BJP or the SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) that have no vision beyond the narrow religious community they seek to serve,” he alleged.
Asked whether not having a chief ministerial face could dent the Congress-led UDF’s chances in the polls, Tharoor answered in the negative and pointed out that even opinion polls have not suggested that this is a major factor. ”The fact is that when the Congress does not have an incumbent CM, it tends not to project one. I cannot think of an exception in recent memory,” he said. But the party is ”richly endowed” with experienced and capable leaders, any of whom could assume the mantle, Tharoor asserted.
Talking about the defining issues of the Kerala polls, he said there are both negative as well as positive issues. ”The negatives relate to the failures, corruption and violence of the ruling Left in Kerala; the positives rely on the strong forward-looking vision of the Congress-led UDF, reflected in a ‘people’s manifesto’ that addresses all the key questions facing the state,” he said. Against the proven corruption over which the LDF has presided, the UDF offers far-reaching welfare provisions, major educational reform, and an investor-friendly approach that will generate much-needed revenues for the state, Tharoor asserted.
”The LDF has been shamelessly piling on debt for future generations to pay,” he alleged.
Asked about his prediction for the polls, Tharoor said, ”I am not a psephologist to give you a number. But I tweeted a warning a week ago to the ruling party, ‘do not count the ships in the harbour but see which way the wind is blowing’!” The LDF has been buoyed by a host of public opinion polls that still reflect its fading advantages, but the trend is clearly in favour of the UDF, he said, highlighting that 55 per cent of ”our candidates are fresh faces and it takes some time for first-timers to be recognised and establish their appeal”. ”That is clearly happening and I expect a strong victory when the results are announced on May 2,” he said. Kerala goes to polls to elect members of its 140-member assembly on April 6. Counting of votes will take place on May 2 along with that of Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal and Puducherry polls.