Interview
“The CEO must explain how discussing Sabarimala violates the basic procedures of the electoral campaign. It’s this particular officer’s opinion, not that of the EC,” said Kummanam.
Pic: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair.

Former Kerala BJP state President Kummanam Rajasekharan is back to state politics. He quit the post of the Governor of Mizoram to be back in the state, where he has based his political activities over the years. Kummanam is most likely to be the BJP candidate from the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram seat. He spoke to TNM on his return to state politics, his expectations from the Lok Sabha elections, among other things.

What made you return to state politics? Do you think the local BJP leaders are not strong enough to deal with the state’s affairs?

The state of affairs in Kerala is in bad shape. In all sectors, the administration is a total failure. A change is essential in such a situation, the people desire it. Their longing for change forced me to come back to  state politics.

So it was your decision, not the party's?

It was a suggestion on my part, which the party’s central leadership approved.

So do you think leaders of the party like state President PS Sreedharan Pillai are incapable of exposing the government's failure?

They are also leaders, they are also in the leadership. We are a team with a common goal. They are all capable, there is no question of failure of one person.

Is it confirmed that you will contest from Thiruvananthapuram?

Not yet confirmed, the party will decide that.

But are you interested?

I am interested in politics.

Not in electoral politics?

Politics is politics; you can involve in elections, or take a responsibility within the party.

Which are the constituencies that the party will focus on during the elections?

I am only a former president, there is a party state president and core committee to decide that; it is an internal matter. I have just returned and I’m going to involve myself in the party activities.

Which are the seats you anticipate the BJP to win?

We are contesting the elections to win all 20 seats. In my opinion, there is enough chance for the NDA in all seats. The atmosphere in the state is ripe for a change. Within a month’s time, we will gear up to defeat the other two fronts.

People will reject the UDF and LDF. What contribution have they made to state politics after ruling for so many years? There is total failure in the farm sector, there is no employment. It is mostly Kerala youth who are going outside the state for a job. There are no jobs here, no factories in the private sector, and no flourishing industries. The NDA is strong enough, with PC Thomas and BDJS (Bharath Dharma Jana Sena).

But there is already a split in the BDJS?

It is very minor.

The BJP didn’t win a single seat in the recently held bye-election for local polls. What do you have to say? 

But even if we count the votes that the BJP got, they could be viewed as people’s support for the BJP.

There are reports that BJP General Secretary K Surendran is not happy with the probable candidate list, is there a rift in the party?

This you should ask Surendran himself.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala said Sabarimala should not be made a topic of religious discussion during the election campaigns. How do you view this?

The CEO must state how discussing Sabarimala violates the basic procedures of the electoral campaign. It’s this particular officer’s opinion, not that of the Election Commission. He has not given any basic evidence for this argument. Secondly, how can he say that it creates communal animosity, when Sabarimala is the centre of communal harmony and secularism? Irrespective of caste, creed, religion, language and state, people are coming there.

PS Sreedharan Pillai, the state President of the BJP, in a party meeting said that Sabarimala is a golden opportunity. Even some of the BJP leaders have voiced this opinion?

Yes, it’s a public issue. The people of Kerala are concerned about the Sabarimala issue and they are agitated and tensed regarding the issue. So many people were subjected to police lathi charge and many were jailed and it is such a situation which has to be discussed during the time of elections because it is a human rights violation. It is a question of religious freedom.

But banning women from entering the temple is also a human rights violation, right? Do you honestly believe that the BJP/right wing organisations in Kerala did not use this issue as a religious tool?

Every religious institution has its own do’s and don’ts. And we did not use it as a religious tool. Every religious head was standing with the Ayyappa devotees. Because in other religions also, this kind of an issue can happen in the future. What right does this secular Government have to interfere in a temple’s affairs? It’s a question of the faith of devotees. We are challenging the stand taken by the Kerala Government. A secular Government is taking a stand in the matter of faith of a religious community. That is the main point here. The government is saying it’s a question of gender equality. And also, if it is a question of gender equality, then why is the electoral officer saying it will violate the election procedures here?

But the BJP, which is in power in Maharashtra, didn’t object when the ban on women’s entry was lifted at the Shani Shingnapur temple?

The situations are different. We can’t generalise all the issues. I’m not well versed with the situation in Maharashtra, I shall study it. As far as the situation in Kerala is concerned, each and every temple has got its own traditions and customs. The final word regarding these traditions and customs can only be taken by the tantris. So there is a procedure and system in every temple. The Government is not consulting with the tantris and they are taking unilateral decisions. If they are at all particular about the judgment of the court, then why are they not taking any action regarding the use of flex boards, which the High Court had passed an order against recently?

Do you think the situation could have been managed better if you were here as the BJP state president?

I don’t think so. Here, the people are able to lead the society and they have won. There is an active, dynamic leadership in Kerala and I never felt that my presence was essential here.

What are the political factors that would work against the LDF and the UDF in the coming elections?

They are using the faith of the general public in Kerala, day by day. I don’t think there are any claims that the LDF and UDF can make. But the Modi Government has given more than 56,000 crore rupees for Kerala in the form of various schemes.

Will you come back as BJP state president after the elections?

It’s not up to me to decide that. We are a democratic party and we will take the decision together, later on.