‘I lost due to intervention from Christian church’

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O Rajagopal, 85, senior BJP leader
O Rajagopal, 85, senior BJP leader

You lost the Lok Sabha election from Thiruvananthapuram by a narrow margin. Do you regret losing the election?
I don’t regret losing election. I’ve been contesting elections for both the Lok sabha and the state Assembly since 1989. I’ve never won elections. I’ve contested elections whenever the BJP decided to field me. This time, however, we were expecting to win from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency. We started working one year ago to open the BJP’s account in Kerala. For the past 30 years, both the CPM and the Congress have worked together in ensuring the BJP’s defeat through political manipulations and denying it a toehold in the state. So, I knew that under normal circumstances I wouldn’t win from Thiruvananthapuram. But I decided to contest and try my level best. I started my work for the 2014 election after the Neyyatinkara by–poll in 2012. In the by-poll, I got 30,507 votes and was polled third. In the 2014 General Election, I got majority in four of the seven Assembly segments. Shashi Tharoor got more votes than me in three segments. These three constituencies, of Christian fishermen, are a decisive segment. It is a fact that Sonia Gandhi was very keen on getting Tharoor elected from Thiruvananthapuram. During the campaign, she sensed trouble and sent a Union Minister to Thiruvananthapuram, who met Catholic bishops and Christian leaders and requested their assistance. Tharoor won election through money power and corrupt practices. I would have won from Thiruvananthapuram otherwise. I lost because I didn’t engage in dubious means. I’ve one regret that the BJP could not open its account in Kerala, which would have changed the political equations in the state.

How can you say that Christians didn’t vote for you although you got a comfortable majority in four constituencies?
I didn’t say Christians did not vote for me. I said Church leaders tried to influence the voters in favour of Tharoor. In Thiruvanananthapuram, thousands of Muslims and Christians voted for me. I know it personally. I got hundreds of phone calls from unknown people who felt sad at me losing the election. They were not BJP workers. They were unknown people who wanted and prayed for my victory. The voting pattern in Thiruvananthapuram reveals everything. I maintained lead from the very beginning till the last round. Only Neyyatinkara and Parasala Assembly constituencies, which are dominated by Nadars and Christians, put Tharoor in comfortable zone. Under normal circumstances, the Left’s candidate, Bennet Abraham, should have got maximum number of votes in this region. But he polled third. During election, a television channel aired clips of Tharoor meeting leaders of Pentacostal church and pleading for their support. Again after elections, Vicar General of Neyyattinkara Latin Catholic diocese claimed that his church has great share in Tharoor’s victory. When I tried for an audience with the Bishop of Neyyatinkara, he refused to meet me. I would like to clarify again, it was not Christians or Muslims who were against me, but a group of vested interests helped Tharoor win.

You said that a Union minister networked with Christian leaders to help Tharoor win. Is it normal for the Congress seek support for their candidate?
It’s normal. All party leaders meet leaders of various communities and seek their support. But it is unethical for a political party to request religious leaders to intervene in the election process. It’s against code of conducts. It’s a way of meddling with free and fair election process. But the Congress was desperate and was ready to sacrifice all democratic values to ensure a win.

Which Union minister was it — AK Antony or Vayalar Ravi?
I don’t want to name the person. But I can certainly tell you that Antony and Ravi never indulged in such practices. It is a non-malayalee politician who acted as a bridge between 10 Janpath and Christian leaders. The minister also met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and designed strategies to ensure Tharoor’s win.

Do you think that Modi wave helped the BJP get a convincing victory in the Lok Sabha election?
There was a Modi wave in favour of the BJP. Even in Kerala, it helped the party gain votes. Moreover, people were fed up with the Congress. They wanted a change as the UPA government indulged in massive corruption and loot.

Did expect such great victory for the BJP?
Frankly speaking, I never expected that we would score a great victory in my lifetime. I started with the Jan Sangh as a student. We built a party from the scratch. Today we are getting our due recognition and respect. It is a great feeling.

Some have already predicted that Modi and the BJP would collapse soon because of their own internal contradictions. Do you think so?
I’m not an oracle to predict what happens tomorrow. But I’m sure that it won’t happen. The RSS will monitor the performance of Modi’s government and won’t allow it to fail. Unlike in the past, this time the RSS election campaigns for the BJP. Its men and resources were effectively utilised to carve this victory. So I’m confidant that Modi government would excel in performance and delivery.

Are you going to join the Modi government?
What is the need? I’m not a man for power. My party elected me to Rajya Sabha and made a minister. I never asked for party posts or worked to become a Minister. I don’t belong to such clan who dream power when they go to sleep. I will continue to serve my party and people till I die.

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Bureau Chief, South

Jeemon Jacob has been a journalist for 26 years both in print and television, as of 2011. He was a Reuters Fellow and spent nine months in Oxford University as visiting scholar in 1994-95. He has headed the political bureau in New Delhi of the Rashtra Deepika group of publications and later joined News Express in Brunei Darussalam as Features Editor. He won the Statesman award for rural reporting in 1987 for his seven articles that exposed a brown sugar racket in Kumily, Kerala.

In 1990, he won the state award for best reporting and in 1992, his article on social alienation of people with HIV/AIDS won the prestigious PUCL Award for human rights reporting in 1992. Jeemon is a graduate in English Literature and Journalism and has exposed the corruption behind the DMK government’s allotting prime land to high court judges, senior civil servants, and the kith and kin of politicians under the government’s discretionary quota. He is based in Thiruvananthapuram.

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