The government's Nava Kerala Sadas has become a topic of discussion across Kerala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is leading the public outreach programme, spoke to Malayala Manorama aboard the special bus that is taking his cabinet across the state.
The Nava Kerala Sadas is passing through Malappuram, the Indian Union Muslim League's stronghold. What has been the response to the yatra in the district?
People have taken up the Nava Kerala Sadas, and we are witnessing mass participation in all constituencies, irrespective of the UDF-LDF divide.
What were the measures adopted to address the people's grievances?
Not all are attending the Nava Kerala Sadas seeking redressal of their grievances. People desiring the overall welfare of the state are also attending the programmes. We have put in place an efficient mechanism to handle applications and grievances.
Do you now feel the Opposition would have participated in the Nava Kerala Sadas, had it been discussed with them before the government and the LDF announced it?
This is entirely a government programme. The LDF's only aim is to make it a grand success. The UDF, too, could have adopted the same stand. If they had cooperated, their MLAs could have led and chaired the programmes in 41 constituencies.
The Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition have been projecting the chief minister's responses to criticisms as stemming from arrogance?
The Opposition leader's responses clearly state that he is not fit for that position. He was at the forefront, urging a boycott of the Loka Kerala Sabha. What politics was involved in 'Keralyeem' held (as part of the Kerala formation day) in Thiruvananthapuram? Did the LDF gain from these two events? Or did the UDF suffer any loss because of them?
You termed the assault on black-flag-waving Youth Congress workers by DYFI activists as a "life-saving" act. Isn't it contradictory?
I said what I have said. Didn't you see them (Youth Congress activists) waving black flags at this bus a while ago? Doing so by the side of the road could be termed as a democratic mode of protest. (On that day) I saw them throwing themselves in front of the bus, and they were pushed to the side of the road. If they were not, such protest would have put them in danger.
What is your experience of travelling with your entire cabinet of ministers for a month?
This is a first in the history of India. Normally, we don't get time to come together and share jokes. Besides listening to the people's grievances and addressing them, this has been a good experience for us.
Won't the chief minister and ministers staying away for more than a month affect the governance?
The ministers' offices are fully equipped. The only issue is that those wishing to meet the ministers and submit memoranda would be unable to do so. But that does not mean that complaints would be left unattended.
Isn't the Nava Kerala Sadas a political mission aimed at the upcoming Lok Sabha polls?
It (the question stems from ) adding a political hue to everything. The Nava Kerala Sadas does not have any political dimension.
Critics have been alleging that the Nava Kerala Sadas, being held at a time of financial crisis, is a political extravaganza. Also, haven't the Sadas accepted sponsorships from a section of the people?
Several such events take place in our state. We are not forcing anyone to do anything.
The High Court has criticised the decision to line up schoolchildren on the road-side to greet the ministers' bus. You are a doting grandfather, aren't you?
I have instructed against bringing children, causing them hardships. But, when the state's entire cabinet is going to the people, won't the children, too, be interested in seeing them? They might even remember this event for many years to come.
KK Shailaja explained that you criticised her 'prolonged' speech at Mattannur due to a misunderstanding?
It is a closed chapter. We need not revisit it.
The LDF has been viewing the Muslim League as an integral part of the UDF. Is there any change in that perception?
No, there is no change. The Muslim League is an important part of the UDF. Whenever there is a talk on IUML, a campaign is unleashed that it would shift allegiance. That is mainly a media-created speculation. The League is not considering leaving the UDF. And we are not harbouring a wish that the League join us.
The CPM has discussed in detail its stand towards the League. Is there any circumstance now that warrants a change in the party's stand
There is no such circumstance. The media, which is apprehensive of the UDF's situation if the League leaves it, has created such topics of discussion.
Did the invitation to IUML to certain events of the CPM and the appointment of a League leader to the board of directors of the Kerala Bank trigger such rumours?
It is not surprising that a Muslim League leader represents the Malappuram district in Kerala Bank's board of directors. And it is not wrong on the League's part to demand it.
There is a criticism that the current ministers are not as efficient as those in the first Pinarayi cabinet. How do you view this criticism?
It is a deliberate campaign. A section of the media, too, has played a major role in it. Each minister is performing exemplarly well. K K Shailaja handled the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently, and she got the credit for it as well. When she was replaced, many doubted whether Veena George could be as efficient as Shailaja. Isn't the ministry functioning effectively? I was just mentioning an example.
Accusations are not new to Pinarayi Vijayan. But now, your family, too, has been accused. Does it affect you?
This all began much earlier. Don't you remember 'Kamala International'? Does my wife have such a firm? Now, certain agencies are behind the allegations. I will tell you what I have heard. A woman was 'planted' on a bus, and she spoke to a television channel against the government. Her words were projected as the opinion of the people. She was tutored. Many such things are happening now.
Why didn't you go to court against the Income Tax Interim Settlement Board's order on your daughter Veena Vijayan and her firm, Exalogic?Isn't it (the I-T order) part of a clear political stand? If it was about the company, shouldn't that firm be heard? If the intention was to mention only the company, why did it say that she was certain individual's daughter?
The doubt is, why didn't you approach the court to get that remark expunged?
You would have gone to the town if I had approached the court. I don't take these things seriously. Some people feel that if such a false allegation is made, everything that we achieved would be destroyed. I don't believe in that.
Shouldn't you make timely clarifications on some issues?
This is my stand on such issues.
The Opposition has been continuously alleging a Pinarayi-Modi understanding?
Everybody knows that the Sangh Parivar doesn't like the LDF's stand.
What is the CPM's stand on Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad again? The Left parties and the Congress are part of the Opposition INDIA bloc?
The Congress should think if it is appropriate. They should think if it is right for Rahul Gandhi to contest against the LDF after claiming that its fight is against the BJP.
All ministers travelling on the same bus. Was this the chief minister's idea?
No one advised me in this regard. I have been envisaging this for a long time. We embarked on the trip after completing all the other work.
There is an allegation that the Sadas is focused only on the chief minister?
Nitpickers make such allegations. All 21 ministers have specified roles. I indeed address all the programmes. But three ministers — they keep on changing at each venue — speak before me.
The chief minister is going to the people. Why should he have such a security detail? Journalists are restricted even at the Secretariat?Accredited journalists are not restricted at the Secretariat. We cannot ignore the police's warnings or instructions on security. It is not prudent to intervene in such matters. This (Nava Kerala Sadas) is a different event. Both have to be viewed separately.