‘Religious leaders think that their faithful are a captive vote bank’

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PT Thomas | 63 Senior Congress Leader
PT Thomas | 63 | Senior Congress Leader
Photo: Basith Hassan

Edited Excerpts from an Interview

Why did you opt out of the contest for the Lok Sabha polls?
It is a misinformation campaign that I was not ready to contest election and opted out of the poll fray. My party decided to field a youth leader from Idukki and I didn’t challenge the decision. I was told not to contest the election. The party has given me several opportunities to represent the people and I discharged those responsibilities to the best of my abilities.

Do you feel your party sacrificed you to win the confidence of church leaders?
That is what people think and feel. I don’t think the church is influencing the Congress party decision-making process. I would not have joined the Congress had that been the case. I believe that religion has no place in politics. Many religious leaders think that their faithful are a captive vote bank. They are living under such an illusion and claim people who disagree with them will be taught a lesson. I don’t subscribe to their ideas. I will continue to serve the party and work for the party candidates.

You supported the Gadgil Committee report for the protection of the Western Ghats. But your voters were against implementation of the report. Do you feel you failed to understand popular sentiments in your constituency?
Not at all! The Gadgil Committee was appointed by the government to recommend ways and means to protect the Western Ghats. From the very beginning, there were misinformation campaigns against the Committee. In my constituency, only a small section of the people were against the report. The Catholic Church schemed against me and used the report as a tool.

You have stated that some church leaders were baying for your blood. Being a Catholic yourself, why do you think your church acted against you?
I have no idea. I never insulted church leaders or promoted anti-church feelings. I have always respected all community leaders. It is just not my nature to frequent Bishop houses. My guiding spirit in politics is Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “If anyone told me that God was a god of untruth or a god of torture, I would decline to worship Him. Therefore, in politics also we have to establish the kingdom of Heaven”. How can you bring qualitative changes in politics when politicians act at the behest of the rich and the vested interests? When you fight for truth you don’t have too many options. But there is great happiness and pride even if you lose your battle.

Do you think that politicians should come forward to save the environment?
Not only politicians, everyone should protect the environment. Look at the sad plight of the Western Ghats — it has been subjected to mindless exploitation and nobody is bothered about it. The government is giving licenses for mining and there is no one to monitor them. The Ghats will vanish within a few years and Kerala will lose all its charm. If the current level of exploitation continues, Kerala would be a barren land in a few years. So, we must put a stop to all illegal activities in the Western Ghats.

Do you think that the CPM deviated from its ideological stand and joined hands with church leaders to make electoral gains in Kerala?
The CPM lost its ideological stand long ago. It is a party without a soul or conscience. It is a lost political proposition in Kerala. It’s unfortunate that people with short visions are ruling political parties. They are selfish to the core but I’m sure that time would expose them.

jeemonj@gmail.com

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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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