First interview with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan: ‘Many, including opponents, fully praise our health efforts’
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose new government took over on Thursday, talks with The Indian Express on the priorities of his government, the challenges it faces and the political priorities of the CPI (M) at the national level.
How would you list the priorities of your new government?
The first Cabinet met shortly after the swearing-in and got down to business and approved a roadmap based on a 50-point program and the manifesto which includes 900 pledges. After the Cabinet meeting, I presented some important points, including the elimination of extreme poverty.
The government is committed to bringing comfort and relief to the people during the pandemic as well as to planning ahead to ensure Kerala reaches the standard of living of developed countries in 25 years. Specific committees have been set up with key officials to ensure the implementation of the various programs developed.
In addition to poverty reduction, a separate committee has been formed under the leadership of the Chief Secretary to formulate a program that will alleviate the workload of housewives (housewives) through a “ smart kitchen project ” and will also protect women engaged in domestic work. Creating jobs for 20 lakh educated people is another task we have taken on.
When you went to the election, you and the party decided not to allow anyone a third term and to keep some top leaders off the list of candidates. Was the decision to go for the new government entirely with the new faces part of it? What exactly is the message you want to convey with such a decision?
It was not a new decision. In fact, he had been there for a long time. But we could not fully implement it due to various factors.
This time, the party decided that this standard would be implemented without any exceptions taking into account various factors including the favorable political situation. The people of Kerala have accepted this and it is shown in the huge mandate.
The driving force behind this standard is to equip the party and the administration to face future challenges.
A person from the Dalit community received the Devaswom portfolio. What is the message that the IPC (M) is trying to convey?
K Radhakrishnan, a member of the Central Committee and a former minister who also served as president, was appointed minister of Devaswom. He was given the portfolio in view of the fact that he is a suitable person for the job.
Regarding the “Dalit” issue, our government made a historic decision earlier to allow members of the Dalit community to be priests in the temples under the direction of the Devaswom council.
Should we expect a more democratic approach in the management of temples under Devaswom – as suggested in Tamil Nadu by the new dispensation? Won’t it be used by BJP to create cracks in the Hindufold?
The BJP has only one communal program and the people of Kerala have rejected it. We have an effective model of temple management with Devaswom boards at the helm. It is noteworthy that our government has supported Devaswom’s councils with considerable help in running temples and developing pilgrim centers.
Will there be a review of the government’s approach to Sabarimala? Will your government still advocate for allowing women of all ages or will it take a neutral stance and wait for the court verdict in review motions?
The Sabarimala case is before the Supreme Court. Let’s all wait for the verdict. Special interests want to spark a frenzy and I would advise the media not to play the supporting role of these forces.
There is a criticism that all ministers on the left being new faces, there is a likelihood of an excessive concentration of power at the level of the chief minister and his office …
On the one hand, the media insist on having new faces. At the same time, you claim that it will lead to a concentration of power. We have sufficient clarity on these issues. The new ministers are competent to discharge their responsibilities.
The decision to drop KK Shailaja as Minister of Health has drawn much criticism from you and the party. What would you like to tell them? A number of people pointed out that non-left supporting voters backed your candidates because the DFL had promised continuity, which included Shailaja’s work during the pandemic …
The answers to your previous questions have addressed this as well. Bringing new faces as MPs and ministers was a decision taken by the party. I am happy that many of them, including our opponents, fully praise our efforts in the health sector. The very people who ridiculed Master Shailaja praise her. All of our initiatives are part of teamwork. And, a capable and competent young woman has succeeded Shailaja Teacher. I ask everyone to stop the ducks and support the government in its efforts to deal with the pandemic.
During the last term, the actions of some bureaucrats caused a negative image of the government. How will you keep the bureaucracy disciplined?
The bureaucracy, on the whole, has supported government initiatives. There could be isolated cases. But it happens everywhere. In any case, we are vigilant on these issues.
You are also often called the supreme leader of the party. How will you ensure that there is better and greater consultation with the party?
The question arises because of the spreading lie and the lack of knowledge about our party. The government’s decisions are consistent with the promises we made to the people. The media want to stereotype people and create certain images. The people of Kerala can see through all of these designs.
How will the government overcome the huge debt trap facing the government? How do you plan to fight the Centre’s efforts to delegitimize the work done by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB)?
It is true that we are facing financial constraints. But that doesn’t mean there is a debt trap. Despite the floods, Nipah, Cyclone Okhi and the pandemic, we were able to keep 570 out of 600 promises in our last manifesto. KIIFB is a means of ensuring the rapid implementation of various development projects enriching the State both economically and socially. Even by boosting our infrastructure projects, we also make it a point of honor to modernize our schools. We are doing it on a vision to prepare Kerala for the future world. It is regrettable that various agencies of the Center are working against KIFBI. We will deal with it both politically and legally. It is also curious to know that our KIFBI model has been copied at the Center.
How does the economic impact of the second wave compare to the first wave?
It’s a challenge. But we are convinced that we can overcome the crisis. Our immediate concern is to alleviate the suffering of the population.
The amount allocated for health expenses related to the pandemic and the purchase of vaccines. How does this impact your capital spending program and would it have a significant impact on trade-in spending?
We shared our views with the Center regarding immunization. We believe that it is the obligation of the Center to ensure free vaccination of the population. However, this will not prevent us from honoring our promise to the people.
Would an increase in budget limits help give states the visibility to borrow more for spending? Does the shortfall in GST revenue and the lack of clarity on how this will be addressed, does this also reduce states’ room for maneuver to spend?
We have always expressed our concerns about the distribution of income between the Center and the States. Unless states are supported economically, the challenges facing the country cannot be met. Many slogans like “rich states, strong center” have been raised in the past. But in fact, the states got a rough deal. We have repeatedly presented our proposal on how to improve the state of state resources.
With a dilapidated Congress and disunity among the opposition parties, how is the BJP going to be countered at the national level? With the great show of resistance in Bengal, is it possible that the opposition could rally under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee?
Our point of view on national policies is very clear. Our primary objective is to ensure the defeat of the BJP, which has a divisive agenda. The recent elections certainly underscore our view that there are forces that can confront the BJP. We hope that there will also be movements in this direction at the national level.