CK Padmanabhan hails from a Communist family. As a child, he has reportedly participated in the historic peasant movement in Kavumbai (near Kannur) led by the Communist party. Today, however, he is a staunch Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker since 1969 and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, ready to take on CPI(M) leader and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the Dharmadam constituency of Kannur. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF)'s candidate is C Raghunath.
A former two-time state president of the BJP and the present national council member of the party, 72-year-old CK Padmanabhan said that it was based on the instructions of the party’s national leadership that he was contesting from Dharmadam. TNM catches up with the NDA candidate, who talks on a range of issues, including the campaign tool, the allegations of a BJP–CPI(M) alliance and the gold smuggling case.
RSS ideologue R Balashankar recently alleged that there is a secret understanding between the BJP and the CPI(M) in certain constituencies. This has invited criticism.
There is no point in elucidating one’s imagination. Balashankar’s integrity is unquestionable as he was one of the top leaders of the RSS and was the editor-in-chief of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser Weekly, for 11 years. However, if he is raising this allegation, he should be able to substantiate it with evidence; otherwise, it is a mere political statement.
The BJP, however, is alleging that the Congress and the CPI(M) are having an understanding among themselves. Do you think such an alliance is likely this election?
It may happen in those constituencies where the BJP’s chances of winning are high. The Congress and the CPI(M) will engage in various kinds of adjustments so as to stop the BJP’s victory. They have a common interest, to block the BJP’s entry into the Assembly. This has always been their attempt.
What were the discussions among the BJP leaders this election, especially at the time of selection of candidates?
During the BJP’s core committee meeting, in which [Union Home Minister and BJP leader] Amit Shah was also in attendance, it was decided that senior leaders should contest in all constituencies instead of fielding regional leaders. It was on the basis of this decision that I decided to contest from Dharmadam, though I had made it clear that I was not interested in contesting.
What is the BJP’s main campaign tool in the Dharmadam constituency?
We will be focussing on three aspects — comprehensive development, rule without corruption, and a policy without appeasement.
The Congress has fielded K Muraleedharan in Nemom, which is the BJP’s lone seat in Kerala. What are the BJP’s chances of retaining the seat?
The Congress considers the BJP as the main enemy. This is evident in their candidate choice for Nemom and Dharmadam. They have fielded a strong candidate in our constituency, but not in Dharmadam. The leader they had identified in Dharmadam tactfully withdrew and they had to rope in another candidate. It feels that they do not have a strong desire to contest against the CM. However, we are taking it seriously and our national president JP Nadda will be in Dharmadam on March 27 for a roadshow.
The LDF government has alleged that the Union government is using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Customs as a weapon against them in the gold smuggling case. What is your view?
The Chief Minister had initially welcomed the investigations by the central agencies. But the CM made a sudden change in his stand when the ED investigation led to the his office. When the former Principal Secretary of the Chief Minister, M Sivasankar, who is capable of controlling the office himself, was found to be a key player in the gold smuggling case, the CMO could not step away from the purview of investigation. It is at this point that the CM got enraged.
So, the CPI(M) leaders raising allegations of partisanship against the ED and the Customs is stemming from the fear that their malpractices will be caught. The agencies are functioning based on specific guidelines and the Union government cannot intervene in their daily functioning. The LDF leaders’ allegations against the ED are intended to divert attention from the public. The ED cannot be used as a politically-motivated force. In fact, by alleging that the investigations are politically motivated, they are trying to hide something.
The agencies haven’t been able to produce any evidence so far to move against the CM
No one can say that they will not find any evidence in the case, especially when the investigation is progressing.
Is the BJP making the gold smuggling scam a poll issue in Dharmadam?
Yes. These are discussed in the constituency. Certain CPI(M) leaders also think such discussions are necessary. There are a number of CPI(M) cadres who were not happy with the unilateral decisions of its leaders.
Did anybody from the party, who was aggrieved by the CPI(M), inform you?
Yes. I came to know about this during a public interaction in the constituency. Some of the CPI(M) leaders and supporters are dissatisfied. They didn’t have much confidence in the leaders, unlike before.
How many seats do you think the BJP will secure in the 2021 Assembly election?
No political front can claim that they will win so many seats in the elections. But we are confident. It is a sign of change that people from various walks of life are joining the BJP.
In a recent incident in Jhansi, two nuns were attacked by a few Bajrang Dal members who accused them of forcefully converting two postulants to Christianity. It created nationwide furore, with the Christian community, too, condemning it. Do you think this will have a strain on the BJP’s relations with the church?
The incident in Jhansi was unfortunate and should not have happened. However, it is an isolated incident. The respective state government will take action and Union Home Minister Amit Shah himself has given the assurance in this regard. Certain sections are trying to exploit the incident. The political opponents of the BJP are trying to capitalise on the incident and are fabricating stories.
What was the response when you approached the Christian church leaders before the elections?
It was favourable to the BJP this time. There was no kind of animosity, unlike the previous time. They have their own problems and complaints and they wanted us to resolve them. The Union government will do whatever it can to solve the problems.
Watch: CM Pinarayi's interview to TNM