R Balashankar, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, has hit out at the BJP's Kerala unit after being denied nomination as a candidate from the Chengannur assembly constituency. A former convener of BJP’s intellectual cell and a co-convener of its training division, Balashankar spoke to Malayala Manorama.
Why do you say that the BJP leadership in Kerala has clinched a deal with the CPM?
I do not see any other logic in the party decision to deny me a seat in Chengannur. I am not sure who is behind that decision. Maybe it is done to get the BJP candidate elected from Konni. The BJP has fielded irrelevant candidates in its A-class seats such as Aranmula and Chengannur. There is no logic behind the candidate selection in those places. The party leadership had promised to consider only winnable candidates this time yet they ignored me. Chengannur is a constituency that changes with the times.
Why did you opt to contest from Chengannur?
I decided to contest from Chengannur with the knowledge and backing of national leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all state leaders. I have been attached to the movement since the establishment of the first RSS branch at Ala in Chengannur. I was a member of three key central committees related to the election last time. I was a convener of the BJP’s intellectual cell and the editor of Organiser for 11 years.
With such a solid background, I returned to Chengannur and strengthened my personal connections to pave the way for a BJP victory. My stand on the Cheppad church issue has prompted the Orthodox Church leaders to publicly declare their support to me. Even other communities have assured me of their support.
Do you think your efforts in Chengannur have been wasted?
If the state leadership insists that I am not fit to be a candidate, they have to look at the candidates’ list to see how many of them are more eligible than me. Some of the candidates said that they were not consulted before they were selected. I only wanted to contest from Chengannur. I worked there for a month on my own. I held discussions with all leaders without much fanfare. All of them encouraged me. All those efforts were wasted.
Was the Kerala Congress ready to be a part of the NDA?
There was a chance to form connections that could have strengthened the NDA in Kerala. All those were nixed due to an immature state leadership. There are leaders in the BJP who used to mock a leader like K M Mani. Are such leaders strengthening the party or weakening it? I was trained in a line of politics that respected leaders in the other parties and kept good relations with them.
The state president of the BJP has drawn criticism for renting out a helicopter to contest from two seats.
The state president has a claim on all seats. He is free to do so. Why would someone who finished third in the byelection contest there again? He is also contesting from Manjeswaram. It is tough to campaign in both seats in a short span of time.
Politics is no place for flaunting luxury. BJP's hallmark is not luxury. BJP leaders live and work like sages. People welcome them as sages. That is the base of their credibility. Politics has moved beyond movie stars. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's entry has put paid to the tendency to get movies stars to pull crowds. Crowds throng to take a look at Modi. The election commission has fixed a limit to the money that can be spend on an election. That is political morality.
You had earlier expressed your dissatisfaction with the way the state leadership works.
Nobody should think they are all-knowing or all-powerful only because they have got into a position. This is a party with democratic values. Why was my reaction rejected with contempt? I have built up my political credibility over a long time. I have never wished for anything from the party. Nor have I received anything.
What are the chances of the BJP in Kerala in such a situation?
I do not want to comment on that. I do not think that you can come to power by scaring the people by flaunting the power you wield at the centre. I do not want to say anything in this situation when the party is facing an election. People want an alternative to both the fronts.
Have you brought to the attention of the central leaders the way you were ignored in Kerala?
I have not got the time for that. I did not see it coming. Once I am back in Delhi, I will get appointment with all central leaders and inform them of the developments. I do not want to tell them anything about the other issues here because the only purpose of my return to Kerala was to face the election from Chengannur.