Padmaja Venugopal on election setback, Silverline project and Congress leadership

Padmaja Venugopal

Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of legendary Congress leader K Karunakaran who was the chief minister of Kerala for several years is no new name in Kerala politics. She has been very active in KPCC over the past few decades and is known for taking strong stands on issues within and outside the party.

In the recently concluded Kerala legislative assembly elections, Padmaja Venugopal locked horns with P Balachandran (CPI), and Suresh Gopi (BJP). However, after a tough battle, she lost the race to P Balachandran for just 946 votes.

Nirmal Narayanan talked to Padmaja Venugopal, where she opened up about the new leadership in Congress, the controversial Silverline Project that aims to connect Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargode, and the ongoing Joju – Youth Congress rivalry.

How is the new leadership in Congress led by K Sudhakaran and VD Satheesan?

People in Kerala have a good opinion about VD Satheesan and K Sudhakaran. It does not mean that other leaders in Congress do not have goodwill among Keralites. All leaders and workers of Congress should work together in the future. And moreover, it is the duty of every Congress worker to obey the order of the High Command.

What is your opinion about Congress embracing a semi-cadre system?

This is not actually a new idea. This idea has been there in our minds for several years. However, it should be noted that Congress and Communist parties are functioning very differently in reality. The Communist Party is a pure cadre party, while we are not. That is why we are thinking about a semi-cadre system. There is no problem for Congress workers to embrace a semi-cadre system.

Moreover, K Sudhakaran is such a leader who has reached this level by facing several challenges posed by Communist parties in Kannur. He knows how to implement this semi-cadre system, and he is trying his best. To achieve this, all Congress leaders and workers should work together in unity.

Yes, we all know Sudhakaran is known for his stubborn attitude and is that the reason why Youth Congress workers behaved so rudely to actor Joju after he questioned a roadblock protest? Congress is known for non-violence, but what Youth Congress did was something unacceptable, Isn’t it?

Congress, as a party always stands for the poor people. For the elite class, it will not be a problem even if petrol prices rise to Rs 200. We organized a protest to reduce the petrol-diesel price hike in India. Several people were cooperating with the protest, as they pretty much know that the protest was organized for their wellbeing.

Some of the women workers informed me that the actor abused them. I did not hear it personally, but I heard it from other workers. However, I am not supporting the act of demolishing a vehicle.

Moreover, if the protest is organized by CPI(M), and if Joju commits a similar act, then both the vehicle and the actor will not be there. (Smiles). If CPI(M) is blocking roads, people like Joju will not dare to question them due to fear.

And, why is CPI (M) government not ready to reduce the taxes imposed by the state on petroleum products.

Tell us something about the controversial Silverline Project..

Authorities and the government should understand that a project like Silverline can be launched only after rigorous studies. For example, for the past few years, Kerala has been facing issues like floods.

Then, they talk about the pathetic financial condition of the state. During the time of the election, the government gave kits for six months, and after that, they stopped it citing financial reasons. Amid all this crisis, they are blatantly launching Silverline Project.

I am not against development. I used to travel a lot, and when I visit developed cities, I also want my country to become like that. But all developments should be carried out only after meeting the needs of common men which includes, road, electricity, and water.

How do you see your election failure in the 2021 assembly elections?

When Suresh Gopi entered the scene, I was aware that the competition was tough. However, Congress workers at the grassroots level worked hard for me, and I am grateful to them. But things take an unexpected turn when some leaders worked against me. I do not want to name them, but I have given a complaint to the KPCC president.

And the key factor was Suresh Gopi’s candidature. Suresh Gopi is a film star, and he has a huge fan following. Several congress votes went to Suresh Gopi. People in Thrissur voted for me, but some people betrayed me.

Is Congress lacking a big persona like Pinarayi Vijayan?

I don’t think so. Congress now has powerful faces like VD Satheesan and K Sudhakaran. I strongly believe that Congress will bounce back in the coming months.

How do you see the upcoming UP elections?

BJP is cleverly using religion as a tool. Recently, Modi went to Kedarnath, and it is appeasing a section of people. BJP is playing the religion card, and that was the reason behind their previous success. People should understand that religious politics will pull the country to a pathetic state.

People cannot forget the contributions given by the family of Jawaharlal Nehru to India. Even though parties like BJP are trying to demean the Gandhi family, but they cannot ignore their sacrifices. I hope the Priyanka Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi duo will do wonders for the Indian National Congress in the coming years.