The Congress on Thursday sacked veteran leader and former Union minister K V Thomas from the party, hours after he attended a CPI(M) election convention in Ernakulam district’s Thrikkakara constituency where a by-poll is scheduled to be held on May 31. Thomas, a five-time MP, had been at loggerheads with the party for over a month. In April, he was removed from the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee’s (KPCC) political affairs committee and executive committee after he attended the CPI(M) party Congress in Kannur. The 76-year-old leader, who was a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), in an interview with The Indian Express speaks about his removal from the party, its ongoing “Chintan Shivir” in Udaipur, the CPI(M), and his plans.
The Congress sacked you from the party on the eve of the ‘Chintan Shivir’…
The ‘Chintan Shivir’ is only a meeting of a few leaders and their loyalists or close associates. Those who regularly meet at the AICC headquarters in Delhi have shifted their venue to Udaipur. That is all there is to this ‘Chintan Shivir’. What are the criteria for selecting delegates or leaders for this brainstorming session? There is no democracy in the Congress. Several senior leaders have been dropped from the event. From Kerala, senior leaders P J Kurian, V M Sudheeran and Pandalam Sudhakaran have not figured in the list. It is totally undemocratic.
Did you recently make suggestions to revive the party?
The leadership has not discussed any party matter with me. The party has no links with workers. How many leaders have access to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi? They (Sonia and Rahul) meet the same leaders who are always with them, day after day. It was not like that in the past. These leaders should be willing to stand among the workers at least for a minute to get the pulse of the people. The party is neglecting anyone who demands corrective measures. Many senior leaders at the national level have been sidelined for demanding corrective measures. I have not met Rahul since 2018. Recently, I asked AICC general secretary K C Venugopal that I want to speak to Rahul because I wanted to clear misunderstandings if any. But nothing happened.
At the CPI(M) convention on Thursday, you attacked Congress for its ‘soft Hindutva’.
The Congress’s soft-Hindutva line is a serious issue that I have raised several times at party forums in the past. Soft Hindutva will not help the party. We should take a strong stand against Hindutva. The party should not waver. The action against leaders like me has created an impression in the rank and file that the Congress is now against minority leaders in the party. People say so. I belong to the fishermen (Latin Catholic) coastal community in Kerala. Recently, Congress state president K Sudhakaran insulted me by making infra-dig comments about my background.
Even after the disciplinary action, you are claiming you are with the Congress.
Being with the Congress is not just about that Rs 5 membership. The Congress is a passion as well as a culture for me. I know how to hold on to Congress sentiments. I have a lot of social work to do. When the K-Rail project emerged, I demanded that the party should not oppose it blindly. The leadership wanted to object as it was proposed by (Kerala Chief Minister) Pinarayi Vijayan. This is not the first time I am backing a development project. I played a critical role in getting the Vizhinjam seaport project and the Kochi Metro for Kerala.
Is concern about the state’s development a pretext to get closer to the CPI(M)?
It was the Congress that kept me away over the years. In 2018, there was an attempt to sack me from the party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, I was denied a seat. Then, I asked for a party post, but they did not give. During the Assembly elections, I was again denied a seat. They were not even ready to allot a seat that the Congress had lost. I was made state working president but allowed to continue in the post for only four months. At any cost, the leaders wanted to neglect me. Even Rahul Gandhi developed cold feet towards me. National and state-level leaders are working to keep me away from the party. I don’t want to name any of them.
How are you going to associate with the CPI(M), particularly in the coming by-election?
I have no plan to join any party, I have a long tradition of social work. I will be among the people with interventions for development. Active political life is not just about holding flags and raising slogans. The people of the Thrikkakara Assembly constituency will decide the fallout of my dismissal from the Congress. Let the people decide.
Congress leaders say you should make way for others…
Why is that norm applied to K V Thomas alone? If advanced age is the criteria, why do Oommen Chandy, K Sudhakaran et al contest elections and continue in parliamentary politics? Opposition leader V D Satheesan has contested the last five elections. Will he keep away from the next Assembly elections? Will Ramesh Chennithala quit electoral politics? A K Antony, who occupied a key post (Kerala CM) at the age of 36, has retired only recently (at 81 years old). What is the logic behind saying only Thomas should make way for the new generation? Why aren’t others ready for that?
The party claims your exit will not make any impact.
They said they had a survey done on my impact. Let them find comfort in such surveys. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AICC did a survey. The party did another survey in Kerala before the Assembly elections in 2021. Even the CM and his personal staff were fixed based on the survey result. We know what happened after both surveys. Why did the party take action against me if I am a nonentity? They could have left me alone and neglected me.