‘I want to bolster the BJP’s chances of coming to power in Kerala’, says ‘Metro Man’ E. Sreedharan on his decision to join the party

Published : February 18, 2021 21:25 IST

‘Metroman’ E.Sreedharan, a 2018 photograph. Photo: THULASI KAKKAT

“Metro Man” E. Sreedharan, who served for many years as the Principal Adviser to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and who is well-known for his leadership and advisory roles in building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi, Lucknow and Kochi metros, may be among the prominent personalities that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to enlist as its candidates in the Assembly election in Kerala, due in April. A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri awards, he has also received the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur of the French government and was chosen as one of Asia’s Heroe’s by Time magazine. During a distinguished career, Sreedharan also served as a member of the United Nation’s High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport.

It is with a lot of curiosity and some surprise that Kerala, therefore, heard the announcement made by the BJP State president, K. Surendran, at a press conference in Kozhikode on February 18 that Sreedharan will formally join the BJP at the inauguration of the party’s State-wide “Vijay Yatra” campaign in Kasaragod on February 21.

Excerpts from a telephone interview Sreedharan gave Frontline in the context of the announcement.

What is the reason behind your sudden decision to enter politics?

This is not a sudden decision. I have been thinking about it for some months. The main reason being the cyclical rule of the LDF [Left Democratic Front] and UDF [United Democratic Front] is not bringing any tangible progress in the State. Things are not going the way the people expect them to go. So I told them I would join the BJP.

The main problem in Kerala is that the State and Central governments do not have a united way of working. The Kerala government, whoever is in power, is always criticising the Central government and slowing things a lot, with the result that all the help that is coming from the Centre is not focussed in the State. The BJP is in power at the Centre. If the BJP is in power in Kerala also, the State will benefit tremendously. Just to bolster the BJP to come to power and achieve that, I thought joining the BJP will be a good thing. I think a lot of like-minded people will certainly accept the BJP and it should be able to come to power. That is the main reason behind my decision.

But do you think the BJP is anywhere near coming to power in Kerala for you to make that kind of a difference?

That is the idea. Somebody has to try it. Otherwise it will never come.

So then, is it a personal thing for you, in the sense that you think, as an MLA, perhaps you will be able to do exemplary work at a personal level rather than at a political level, like what you have been doing so far in the case of the projects you have undertaken?

As an MLA I do not think I will be able to do anything at all. I will be able to do [something] only if the BJP comes to power. The intention is not to become an MLA. That was definitely not my purpose at all.

But, surely, you will be contesting the election?

That will be necessary in any case.

But the BJP in all these years has managed to get only one seat in the Assembly. What chances do you see for the party this time?

I expect it has a good prospect because my joining the BJP will bring a lot of like-minded people into the party. It will be a landslide rush.

Suppose you win a seat for the BJP but other parties form the government in Kerala this time too, do you think you will still be able to make a difference in the relationship between the State government and BJP government at the Centre?

No, not with the LDF or the UDF in power.

But then the LDF government says that the development activities it has undertaken have been outstanding, especially given the constraints under which it is functioning. Does it not seem like a justified claim?

That is what they claim. But there is very little development on the ground. Many important programmes that the Kerala government wanted, it has not been able to take up. And whatever it has done is either by borrowing, taking the State to bankruptcy really, or with Government of India’s funds, which, in any case, would have been utilised here.

But has not the State done well, for instance, in the education and health sectors?

Not at all. How will they make any change in children’s education when the campuses see an overdose of politics and indiscipline? There is absolutely no discipline. The appointments are all political. Every Vice Chancellor, every promotion, it is all party people….

So, is your decision a personal one or is it because of political reasons?

It is a personal one. I was not having any strong views on politics.

Then you could have joined any of the two other fronts as well...

No. I didn’t want to.