Lunch with PM was a gesture of decency, CPM wants to label me as a Sanghi: Premachandran MP

N K Premachandran
In the wake of the controversy that erupted following the lunch, Premachandran clears the air about the row in an interview with Manorama. File Photo: Onmanorama.

Kollam MP N K Premachandran is in the eye of the storm with the CPM mounting a scathing attack on him for his decision to take part in a friendly lunch hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Parliament House canteen. In the wake of the controversy that erupted following the lunch, Premachandran cleared the air about the row in an interview with Manorama. Excerpts.

Can you explain the circumstances in which the luncheon with the PM triggered a row? 
When the Parliament session was on, the additional secretary from the Prime Minister`s Office (PMO) called asking if I was free to come to the PM’s office. During the LS session, as per norms, the PM invites parliamentary party leaders to express gratitude. Thought it was such an invite. When I reached, lawmakers from other parties were in attendance. The PM took us to the canteen on the first floor.  He said he was coming to the new Parliament building canteen for the first time and hence thought he would rather be with MPs. The discussion there was entirely apolitical and informal.  He talked about his daily regime and lifestyle only. He then heard us MPs talk about it.CPM leader and Coimbatore MP P R Natarajan then asked the PM if he could take a photo, a request which he obliged. Wonder what is there to be miffed about this? Where is a conspiracy plot in this? We just reciprocated the warmth of the PM’s invitation.

But you were the lone non-NDA MP in the lunch?
Yes, it is true. I am unaware of the criterion invoked to invite me. The charge is that I wasn’t cautious enough when I accepted the invite. If the country’s prime minister were to invite those levelling such charges like John Britas or Elamaram Karim, would they have declined to accept the invite citing that the PM is a backer of communalism and hence we can’t partake in the lunch? I went straight to the Parliament after the luncheon and slammed the Modi government after the meeting. I was chosen by the Opposition to do the rebuttal of the White Paper on the UPA regime by the Modi dispensation. I listed the injustices meted out to the minorities by Modi and his government in my refutation.

Couldn’t you have declined to accept the invite?     
Our political and democratic decency do not allow such an approach. Is it decency to decline an invite when the PM of a country wishes to meet an MP? The invite was for a meeting in the office not to have lunch.

How do you see such a row erupting ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls? 
The CPM is communalising the issue. The attempt is to portray me as a Sanghi and thereby influence the minorities. The CPM’s style is to persistently target and portray those with unparalleled secular credentials as Sanghis. They portrayed me, K Muraleedharan, K Sudhakaran and many top leaders as Sanghis.

They deployed this tactics in 2019 (LS polls) too. The then CPM state secretary Kodiyeri had, in the presence of candidate KN Balagopal, claimed that I would join the BJP if I won the polls.

The CPM had raised a hue and cry when Shibu Baby John met the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and presented him with an Aranmula Kannadi. Chief Minister Pinarayi had met many times and presented him with gifts including Aranmula Kannadi many times. Why is Pinarayi always giving gifts when he meets Modi? Why did Pinarayi invite Nitin Gadkari, who is close to the RSS leadership,  to Cliff House along with the latter’s family, and hosted a feast in 2019? The feast happened just after the raid on Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL). If anyone’s political view changes by having food with a political rival, then Pinarayi’s political outlook would have changed a long ago.

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