Does CPM have courage to reject PDP support, asks Satheesan | Interview

Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan. Photo: Manorama

When Kerala goes to polls on April 26, it will be the first big test for V D Satheesan too. Along with the performance of the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government, the Leader of the Opposition’s electioneering skills will also be assessed when the state votes.

The Congress leader proved his mettle as a strategist during the Thrikkakara and Puthuppally assembly bypolls. But this is the first time he is managing an election of such a big scale.

With Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran mostly confined to his Kannur constituency where he is seeking re-election, Satheesan has become the face of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) during the electoral race. Amid his hectic schedule, Satheesan speaks to Onmanorama on the election strategies and his political calculations.

  • Right from the beginning of the campaign, you have been exuding confidence that the UDF will win all 20 seats in the states. But there must be some seats where you face a tough fight. Which are they?
    There are specific situations in certain constituencies and there are some seats where tough fight is on. We don’t deny it. But we have a clear edge in every constituency. There are some lapses in some constituencies. We are working on finding out such lapses and fixing them. We started the works a year ago. When it comes to election management we have made changes in several areas. Now, we conduct regular review meetings. I have personally attended more than one such review meetings in several constituencies. KPCC president also conduct review meetings. Senior leaders have been visiting constituencies and assessing situations. If we come across defects in campaigning or squad work we try to solve them then and there. Financial difficulty is there. The rest we have been able to overcome.
KSU activists carrying promotional material for K Sudhakaran in the Kannur Lok Sabha constituency. Photo: Manorama


  • Last time when UDF won 19 seats, there were two main factors – Sabarimala issue and the excitement over Rahul Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad. This time, these factors are not there. What do you pin your hopes on this time?
    Issues change every time. This time there is a growing sense of insecurity among the people about what the Union government, which is a communal regime, would do if they get one more term. It’s not just among minority communities but all those who value democracy. That insecurity is getting translated into huge anger against the government. At the same time the state government is facing unprecedented anti incumbency feeling. Third factor in our favour is that Rahul Gandhi’s relevance has only increased. Today he is the only hope at the national level. He is the only hope of the INDIA alliance and all those who want to prevent Narendra Modi from retaining power.


Balloons and posters resembling the tri-colour were used during Rahul Gandhi's roadshow in Kalpetta, Wayanad on Wednesday. Photo: Manorama
  • The selection of Congress candidate in Thrissur was a major moment in this election. Was K Muraleedharan shifted to Thrissur from Vadakara only because of Padmaja Venugopal’s defection to BJP?
    We had studied the situation in each seat well and we thought some minor changes were needed. We discussed it among the party leadership and made a proposal. Everyone accepted the proposal. With that the social equations became balanced and we could field good candidates in all constituencies. (Thrissur’ sitting MP) T N Prathapan had already made a request to stay away from contest and come back to state politics. Last time also he was made to contest parliament election due to particular circumstances. This time he was removed from the race with his absolute permission. Also the contest in Thrissur was going to a different level and there was a feeling that a mighty candidate should be fielded. We thought about the best candidate we could field there and Murali was picked. In Vadakara we could field a young candidate (Shafi Parambil). All these changes were made to ensure that we win all these seats. Likewise we fielded K C Venugopl in Alappuzha. So when the UDF candidate list was out we could create a god impression. At the same time we could convince the secular minded people of Kerala that the Congress and the UDF have no compromise with the BJP and RSS.


  • Did Padmaja’s switch over to BJP come as a blessing in disguise?
    Whenever someone leaves the party, it’s not a happy event. Still when someone back stabs and leaves we feel sad. So we reply to them politically.
K Karunakaran birthday
In this file photograph from 2005, K Muraleedharan (left) and Padmaja Venugopal pose with their father and former chief minister K Karunakaran. File photo: Manorama


  • This is your first major election since becoming opposition leader. Is there a VD strategy in this campaign?
    Preparation is the most important factor when it comes to election. We have done that. We have set up booth committees and enrolled names to voters list. Second is election management. We already have a system in place. We have to run that and constantly monitor if it’s working properly. The problem you find in one constituency may be different from what you see in another seat. There are national issues we have to highlight and find ways to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor. We are setting the election agenda. On the other hand, the chief minister is tactically trying to cover up issues like corruption allegations and pension arrears. He thinks Citizenship Amendment Act is the only issue to be discussed in the elections. He is trying to shift focus to such a line. The BJP is trying to create communal polarisation and the CPM is also trying to do that. But we take our stands to create political polarisation. That’ the difference. We are trying to oppose majority communalism as well as minority communalism. When the SDPI declared support to us without any discussion with us we took a bold stand that we don’t need it.


  • The PDP which is also accused to be a communal party has extended support to LDF. What’ your take on it?
    The CPM’s line is that whoever supports them are secular and those who oppose them are communal. Jama athe Islami and Welfare Party used to support LDF till 2019. For the CPM, they were secular till then. After that they changed their stand and decided to support Congress. Then they became communalists. Does CPM have the courage to reject PDP’s support? Pinarayi used to make tall claims about nabbing Madani and handing him over to CBI. Now he is accepting their support.
Madani and Pinarayi Vijayan shared a stage during the campaign for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. File photo: Manorama


  • There was a controversy over not using the flags of Congress an IUML during Rahul Gandhi’s road show in Wayanad. Now, BJP candidate K Surendran has triggered another row with the demand to change the name of Sulthan Bathery town to Ganapathyvattom. Is that a trap for Rahul Gandhi?
    Last time the controversy over IUML flags was raised by the BJP. This time, the CPM is doing it. Both the parties are speaking in the same tongue. The allegation against us is that we tried to hide our ally IUML from campaign front. That’ absurd. IUML is an ally of the INDIA bloc and it participates in the alliance meet. How can we hide them. Coming to the name changing controversy, our stance is that it’s not worth discussing in an election. We disdain it with contempt. We should not discuss such third rate topics. We should ignore it. They are sowing seeds of communalism everywhere possible.
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