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Coronavirus | The Kerala government has been more busy in PR than actual work, says Ramesh Chennithala

Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala. File

Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala. File   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala speaks to Sobhana K. Nair about the Congress’ attacks on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Kerala model to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He calls for the return of Rahul Gandhi as president of Congress party.

Also read: The Hindu Explains | Why have COVID-19 cases surged in Kerala?

What is the justification in asking for the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in connection to the gold smuggling case considering that there is so far no evidence of his direct involvement?

His office’s involvement has clearly come to the fore with the latest revelations of the NIA (National Investigation Agency). In an affidavit, the NIA has informed the court that the key accused Swapna Suresh had a strong connection to the Chief Minister’s Office via Principal Secretary to CM M. Shivashankar. The Principal Secretary to the CM basically is the eyes and ears of the CM. And the CM is morally answerable for the actions of his Principal Secretary. He doesn’t have moral authority to continue in office.

The ‘Kerala Model’ in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has been celebrated the world over. Considering this, isn’t the opposition bereft of issues to counter the government?

Currently, there are no takers for the ‘Kerala Covid Containment Model’. One has to understand that Kerala for many decades has had robust medical facilities. The government in fact proclaimed its victory over the COVID-19 pandemic long before its actual impact was felt in the State. Now, with the foreign returnees pouring in, the numbers are going up. The ‘Kerala Model’ has failed. The fact is that even with better infrastructure, we have not been able to contain the pandemic. The government has been more busy in PR (public relations) rather than actual work. Kerala is reporting on an average 1,000 cases per day. Even after scaling up the testing facility, the number of tests per day is still quite low compared to other neighbouring States. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are testing about 50,000 people per day, while Kerala is testing only 20,000 [people] per day.

Also read: What went wrong in containing COVID-19 spread in Kerala

The Ram Temple issue has caused a lot of disquiet within the party. Can ‘soft Hindutva’ counter extreme religious nationalism?

There is no ‘soft or hard Hindutva’. There is only one Hindutva. Should religion be mixed with politics? The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) propagates Hindutva for vote bank politics, which the Congress has always opposed. We have always been for a negotiated settlement of the issue and welcomed the Supreme Court judgment.

Also read: Ram temple bhoomi pujan | Symbol of modern Indian culture, says Narendra Modi

Your ally in the State IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) has objected to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s statement on the Ram Temple. How do you keep your alliance intact in the face of your party high command’s stand on the issue?

The IUML is a different political party and they have every right to express their opinion. Priyanka- ji’s statement clearly mentions the stand of the Congress party, highlights the human values represented by Lord Rama, and it spoke against BJP’s communalism. We have good relations with the IUML and there won’t be any problem because of this in UDF (United Democratic Front). The IUML has already said that this chapter is closed now.

Should Rahul Gandhi return as the president of the party?

I firmly believe that Mr. Gandhi should take over as the president of the party because he has been relentlessly fighting against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party has full faith in him and he is supported by all like-minded Opposition parties too. He should return to the helm and carry everyone together. There should be no division between old and young leaders. Everyone who believes in Congress ideology should find space. As a vibrant political leader, he should take the responsibility and fight the communal forces in this country. This year, we face Bihar elections and next year, five States go for polls. We need a leader who can unite the party which only Mr. Gandhi in the present circumstances can do.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 8:07:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/interview-with-ramesh-chennithala-on-keralas-control-of-coronavirus/article32296680.ece

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