NDTV: Joining me on the 8 o’clock news tonight, someone who’s known as India’s metro man — Dr E Sreedharan. Dr Sreedharan, thank you for being here tonight. Sir, you’re entering politics now and joining the BJP. Why did you take this decision at 88 years old?
Dr. Sreedharan: Well this is a good question. Till now, I was very very busy with my own professional responsibilities. Now, professional responsibilities are all totally over. I am still keen to do something for the society and particularly for my state Kerala. And the only way is entering into politics side because I don’t want to take any more professional responsibilities at this age.
NDTV: It’s interesting that you chose the BJP because the BJP only has one MLA in Kerala. It’s not a political party which is very prominent there, in fact, it’s not either the main ruling party or the opposition. Why did you choose a party like the BJP which is not very prominent in Kerala unlike say North India or other parts of India?
Dr. Sreedharan: I am fully aware of this but, there is some very good reasons why I decided to choose BJP. First and foremost, in Kerala, there are two other major parties that have been ruling Kerala alternatively. The LDF (Left Democratic Front) and the UDF (United Democratic Front) but, during the last 15-20 years, they have not been able to bring any tangible improvement in the state or raise the quality of life of the people. Not even one single industry has come to Kerala during the last 20 years. And most rules are rid with corruption and scandals, also sub-scandals. I don’t want to talk about it very much in this media. And they are all the time fighting with the government of India. If parties are fighting with the government of India, you can’t expect much cooperation or much assistance from the center. Coming to the BJP, it is correct that there’s only one MLA today but, I want to change the image and spread of BJP very much in the state today because I personally believe that BJP is the right party today. There are more high standards, people are very upright, and they are hardworking and above all they are all nation loving people. That is one thing that attracts me to the BJP today.
NDTV: Is it because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that you’re joining the BJP? You had expressed your admiration for him earlier when you wanted politics before the 2014 elections as well.
Dr. Sreedharan: Yes, I got great admiration for PM Modi personally but, that alone is not the thing. I have good rapport with (Atal) Vajpayee who was the previous prime minister. Very good rapport with him in fact, he only opened the first section of Delhi Metro.. and his conduct, the way he was behaving was very impressive to me. A man who purchased his own ticket first before travelling the metro train. You see what an example the Prime Minister has set and that is the tradition I expect from the BJP. That sort of uprightness, love for the country and eagerness to serve the interests of the country.
NDTV: Do you find that already in the last 24 hours, since you announced that you’re entering politics, seems people are saying “Oh that in Delhi, he wasn’t for women getting free tickets.” Many people are raising things or criticizing you even in 24 hours that you wanted to enter politics. Are you ready for this criticism? What would you say to all the people who say that you’re anti-poor or you wanted passenger fares in trains to be higher, that you’re against the bullet train. How would you respond?
Dr. Sreedharan: Now these sort of allegations will come. Most of the allegations are being raised for their own sake… are not correct. So, I will take it in the correct spirit and I will also respond in the correct way. That I will do.
NDTV: Dr. Sreedharan, you also said that you’re ready to fight the elections. You don’t think it will be tiring fighting elections at 88 and will you be the BJP’s face in Kerala?
Dr. Sreedharan: See I don’t intent on fighting elections in the way politicians are generally doing… also so much noise… This is not the way, I want to reach the heart of every voter, tell them what I intent on doing and what they can expect out of it. And tell them that if only you’re satisfied, vote for me otherwise don’t. My style of campaigning will be entirely different so, that is not going to be a very very hectic job.
NDTV: Dr Sreedharan, the BJP often comes under criticism for policies like Love Jihad or people say that they create Hindu-Muslim or communal tensions. Is that something you could support or stand for? What is your view on people who say that the BJP has communal policies?
Dr. Sreedharan: Now that is one thing I am very very particular. BJP is being painted like a communal party today in the country. And it is, according to me, not because I have got such a long association with people in BJP — it is not a communal party at all. It is a party consisting of nation lovers and who accept that all parties, all communities are alike as far as they’re concerned. That is the attitude of Modi government. I can see the way he speaks, I have never seen him at any time attacking any religion. This religious bias in an unnecessarily taunt on BJP and very unjust, according to me.
NDTV: But, for instance, Dr Sreedharan, when you say that the point is that BJP state governments have passed laws against what they call Love Jihad. We’ve seen for instance, eating beef is a major issue for BJP even though in Kerala, beef is eaten commonly even by Hindus. So, would you support policies.. do you support the Love Jihad policy or do you support that people should not eat beef?
Dr. Sreedharan: Personally, I am a very very strict vegetarian. I don’t even eat eggs so, certainly I don’t like anybody eating meat. That is certain and Love Jihad, yes, I see what is happened in Kerala. How Hindus are being tricked in a marriage and how they suffer.. not only Hindus, Muslim, the Christian girls are being tricked in a marriage. Now that sort of a thing I certainly will oppose.
NDTV: So, Dr Sreedharan, are you looking forward to this new innings? Are you looking forward to this new innings in life?
Dr. Sreedharan: I am quite enthusiastic. Enthusiastic not for my own self as it is not from any particular grievances or honour, anything for me (in it). It is the opportunity to serve the people of Kerala. I take it that way and for that I may have to suffer some humiliations… I’m ready to do it.