Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy followed a different tack during the campaign by highlighting development issues. As Chief Minister, he displayed political will and resilience in tackling a horde of issues, and getting the Smart City project off the ground has been a mission. In a interview to Girish Menon, he says that the project will be a reality. Also, his clarity on the United Democratic Front's development agenda is striking. Excerpts from the interview: You have been highlighting development issues during your campaign. How has it been received by the people?Yes, development issues have been the main highlight of my campaign. This is the first time that development has emerged as the main agenda in any Assembly election in the State. The fight is clearly between pro-development and anti-development forces. The UDF is very clear about its programmes.
Economic growth has registered a high of 9.2 per cent. We have succeeded in turning around the farm sector from a negative 2.2 per cent in 2001 at the end of the Nayanar Government's term to 1.7 per cent now. The infrastructure and services sector have also achieved impressive growth rates.
A number of investment projects have either been commissioned or are in crucial stages of implementation. While promoting investments to unprecedented levels, we have also turned our attention to the problems of the weaker sections.
Do you perceive a divergence in development perspectives between the UDF and the Left Democratic Front?No one can deny that our perspectives are different. All economic and social policies aim at achieving progress.
We believe that economic growth and generation of wealth are possible only through huge investments, particularly in Information Technology. Industrial investments will provide direct and indirect employment to lakhs and lakhs of educated youth.
The CPI-(M) led LDF wants to distribute poverty. Examine its track record. During the last five years, it has opposed almost all major development projects proposed by the UDF.
There is a larger issue of social justice involved. While promoting huge investments, we have bestowed attention to issues directly affecting the poor.
We have already implemented the Rs. 3 a kg rice scheme, the Ashraya project and reduced the electricity charges.
These are not populist schemes. They are the outcome of a conscious decision. We are particular that while creating wealth, its distribution should be even. The benefits of economic growth should reach every one.
But the Leader of the Opposition has alleged motives behind the Smart City project... Everything about Smart City has been transparent. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been made public. The CPI(M)'s opposition is another face of its anti-development stance. We are committed to implementing the Smart City project. It is for the people now to decide whether we need it or not. According to the Government's estimates, Smart City will generate more than 70,000 jobs and three times more indirect employment. As for the Opposition allegations regarding penal provisions, the MoU has a clause that stipulates that land given to Dubai Internet City for the Smart City project will be taken back if a minimum of 20,000 jobs are not created.
You have accused the LDF of playing the communal card. How do you justify your charge?The CPI(M) has not yet disclosed why its leader, T.K. Hamza, met the People's Democratic Party chairman, Abdul Nazer Maudani, in a Coimbatore jail. The CPI(M) is following double standards when it comes to seeking the support of fundamentalist elements. The LDF is trying to stoke communal passions in each constituency. It is trying to harvest communal votes. The LDF used the Kerala Congress (J) leader, P.C. Thomas, and the Janata Dal (S) leader, M.P. Veerendra Kumar, to line up the BJP-RSS votes.
The UDF and the Congress party's secular credentials are impeccable. We have always upheld secularism, even while opposing fundamentalist forces.