Says his government has not been appeasing minorities
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that there is no basis for the allegation by the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam that his government and the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) are indulging in minority appeasement.
Mr. Chandy, speaking to The Hindu on the eve of his government’s second anniversary here on Monday, said it was wrong to see the political composition of the UDF as a communal arrangement.
“What we have in the UDF is a political arrangement involving parties and not communities. Both the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress(M) are important constituents of the UDF and both have always adopted a secular stand. There could have been some shortcomings here or there. At the same time, we can also list out what all we have done for everyone, though we don’t wish to do so. If there has been any mistake due to our oversight, we are ready to correct it,” Mr. Chandy said, and held out the olive branch to the NSS and the Yogam leadership, saying that if any specific issue brought to his personal attention had not been attended to, he would certainly go back to it with an open mind.
“We see such criticism as a positive sign, perhaps to correct our mistakes,” he said.
Has he personally felt that the majority communities lacked faith in the government? “See, some propaganda is on. Precisely because of that, we are cautious. That is why we say, we are ready to correct if there is any mistake anywhereI am here as representative of the Congress and not of any community. [Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president] Ramesh [Chennithala] too is here not as the representative of any particular community,” he said.
Will you take the initiative for a dialogue with the NSS-SNDP Yogam leadership? “We have done so individually and collectively, exchanged ideas with them and clarified our position. There will be more such efforts,” Mr. Chandy said.
The Chief Minister was of the view that the State was poised for a take off. “Our flagship programmes — Kannur aiport, Kochi Metro, SmartCity, Vizhinjam, Kottappuram-Kollam National Waterway — forming part of our first-stage projects, are all progressing well. In the second stage, we propose to take up the Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode monorail projects and development of ports from Vizhinjam to Azhickal to achieve a breakthrough in coastal transport. Over the coming year, we are going to concentrate on water supply just as we focussed on road development over the past two years. But the real thrust will be on healthcare. We will come up with some major announcements to mark the government’s second anniversary,” he said.
Mr. Chandy insisted that his relations with Mr. Chennithala were extremely good. “Let me ask you, has the Congress created any problem for the government. Problems are now being created by others, particularly the smaller parties, but I am confident that all these disputes with the smaller parties such as the Communist Marxist Party (CMP) and the Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS) can be resolved through dialogue,” he said.
The Chief Minister said he did not care for his personal image when taking decisions. He had not done so when intervening in the dispute between Kerala Congress(B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai and his son, K.B. Ganesh Kumar, or, earlier, when freeing Mr. Pillai from imprisonment. He had done the same when handling Mr. Ganesh Kumar’s personal troubles.
The Chief Minister said the failure to come up with solutions for the garbage pile-up across the State, acquire land for major projects and check sand-mining were matters that disturbed him. The Cabinet, he said, would soon have two meetings a week, one the regular meeting on Wednesdays and a special meeting on Thursday to discuss and take decisions on such specific issues. “The agenda for the special Cabinet meetings will be decided a month in advance. We will have the officials concerned, Planning Board members and experts attending these meetings. We will begin with a meeting on waste management on June 5 evening,” he said.
How does he assess the strengths and weaknesses of the UDF vis-à-vis its rivals? “The Communist Party of India (Marxist) says not enough people are joining their agitations, but I will not say that the party has become weak. They have suffered a setback following T.P. Chandrasekharan’s murder. But their real problem is that their agenda is not the people’s agenda. The government’s agenda is the people’s agenda and that is our advantage,” the Chief Minister said.